The desert areas of Southern Morocco offer some of the most sensational and untouched wilderness in all of Africa. Leave Marrakech, head south and wind your way through the towering Atlas Mountains to Ouarzazate, (originally a small trading post in medieval times, but now the centre of a thriving film business) and you find yourself on the edge of a vast expanse of wild territory that stretches uninterrupted for many hundreds of miles.
Leave the main roads and the scale and extent of the landscape is awe inspiring. At night in particular, when light pollution is totally absent, the thing that strikes one most, under the panoply of impossibly bright stars, is the minimal impact that man has made on much of this landscape to now. Long may that last.
The Draa Valley, Dades and Todra Gorges cut through the Anti Atlas Mountains to the west of Ouarzazate. And to the south and south west, close to the border with Algeria is where you’ll find some sensationally wild and unspoilt areas of real desert. The Erg Chebbi and Erg Chiggaga are the two principle places where you’ll find dunes proper with the sand rolling as far as the eye can see and dunes that can be as much as 150 metres tall. These areas can be explored on foot, supported by camels over a period of days.
In other areas you’ll find rocky deserts that look like the surface of Mars, red in hue and strewn with strangely eroded black rocks. Craggy ridge lines catch the desert sand, creating massive dunes of red sand up to almost 200 metres in height. This is country best seen using a private 4x4 and guide based from a tented camp to explore the rocky expanses, rolling dunes and ragged mountain ranges. Unlike Namibia - another country with sensational desert country, but beset by many thousands of miles of fences - in Morocco the desert is accessible on tracks and trails many of which have been established camel routes for centuries.
The sense of cleansing and freedom that the desert elicits is powerful. To find your self standing on a rocky ridge surrounded by silence, in the middle of vast people-less expanse is a wonderful experience and most definitley a tonic for the soul.