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How to Decide Which Sahara Tour? Zagora or Merzouga?

As we know, Sahara desert is the largest hot desert in the world. It covers 31% of Africa, stretched out from Western Sahara, Morocco, Niger, Mauritania, Tunisia, Sudan, Libya, Mali, Egypt, Chad, and Algeria. Visiting Sahara should have become my most highlight part during my visit to Marocco. But apparently, it didn’t go that way.

Sahara tour is one of major attraction that can be done in Marocco, almost all tour agent in the big cities offer Sahara package. Other than private tour, the most popular one is the shared tour, where we can travel with other people in one small group. Then the classic question is :

Which one should I take? 2D1N to Zagora or 3D2N to Merzouga? 

As the one who already experienced 2D1N to Zagora, I would not recommend you to take it. Neeeeever!! Why?
Let me tell you my disappointing Sahara experience.

We gathered in Djemaa El Fna 7.30 in the morning. Basically the trip was actually good and well-arranged. Everything went smooth, we got a good driver, comfortable car,  and also managed to have stop at some interesting points.

High Atlas Mountain – on the way to Sahara, we passed by this range of amazing mountain. If you are easy to get motion sickness, be prepared for this winding road!
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Kasbah of Taourirt – an impressive fortified village located in Ourrzazate that was owned by the most influential family in Marocco, even one of the richest in the world, named Glaoui.

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The building were made by mud and straw, usually has a high wall and narrow window to keep out the arrow attack

The trip continued to Zagora and arrived there at around 5 pm. A bunch of camels were waiting and ready to carry us to our camp in the middle the desert. I was so excited, because that was my very first time riding a camel and it happened in Sahara desert! Hohoho How cool was that!!

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And Just like what I read on the internet, riding a camel won’t be that comfortable. Our body will keep bouncing along the ride, and all we had to do is just follow the move of the camel’s back. Don’t ask me about the after riding feel, it was horrible! Particularly in our bottom part. So yeah, just be prepared, at least you know your bottom gonna be sore until a day even 2 days later.

We rode the camel for about 1 hour – which by this, I was expecting we will be far enough in the desert. But… not long after we passed (that looked like) the border, I could see a group of Berber camp built around the little sand dunes. I looked around, was hoping that’s not the tent dedicated for us. But… shit. The camels stopped walking, and we were asked to get off as soon as the camels down. Oh no!

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There was nothing wrong about the camp. The tent was nice and comfortable. There were 4 beds inside one tent. Each got a pillow, sheets, and a warm blanket. They also have proper toilet tents, though the water was limited – but it’s totally okay since we were in the desert.

My biggest disappointment came to the location of the camp. Like, really? I didn’t feel that I’m in Sahara. Where’s the dunes? Well, there were dunes, but surely was far than I expected from the biggest desert in the world. Even at night, I still could see the glare of lights from the nearest village. I thought we’re going to stay somewhere in the middle of Sahara with pitch black surrounding. Pfffttt…

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That face when saying “Sand dunes that I visited in Australia was bigger than this!”

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There were other group staying in the camp. All of us had dinner together in a dedicated tent. Then we were gathered in the middle of all tents. The Berber people made a bonfire, and did some performance for us. Despite of the disappointment I had about the location, it was a fun night! Especially when we chatted with other traveler and swapped our travel stories.

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Actually, almost all of us there shared the same disappointment. The dunes were not like what we saw on their advertisement picture. For the record, I paid this tour for MHD 550, the lowest price the other guest could get was MHD 450, and the highest price was almost MHD 1000. I know! I’m sorry for them who got that ridiculous amount of price!

We tried to make sort of complaint, but their answer kinda not satisfying. They said, “well my friend if you had extra days you should go to Merzouga, the dunes are bigger there. But with 2 days 1 night you only can get Zagora. The question now, do you have extra day?”

What the…? Okay fine. We didn’t want to argue further.

Our night went good, we spent the rest of the night making fun of our fake Sahara desert. Oh, do you know that Sahara is one of the best place to see the stars? That is true! We were a bit pessimistic since it’s cloudy in the afternoon. But around midnight, all the stars started to show up.  And I witnessed so many shooting stars!! Ahh! So cool!

The morning came, we had a simple breakfast with awful taste (well, I was pretty much okay with this. Once again, it wasn’t a hotel so I understood), while enjoying sunrise. At first I came to the camp, I was hoping that in the morning we will trekking or going somewhere with the real Sahara dunes to chase the sunrise. Apparently that never happened. All we got is .. they rushed us to be ready because we need to come back to  Marrakech soon!

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Welcome to (fake) Sahara!!

 

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Oh look at our cute little dunes!

On the way back, we managed to visit Ait Benhaddou. Another Kasbah that also became a shooting location of Game of Thrones! Yep, the city of slave – Yunkai was took place in here. Unfortunately, we were very exhausted and hungry at that time, we barely could walk because of – yeah…camel ride. So we were not really enjoying the tour. But the Kasbah looked awesome though, considering its one of UNESCO world heritage site.

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So yes, that was my horrible experience in Sahara. If you wanted to see a desert like in my pictures above, you could happily join the tour. But if you were expecting the great dunes, do not ever take this Zagora tour! They will bring you just to the entrance of Sahara.

I’ve never tried 3D2N to Merzouga, but… I believed it’s gonna be much better than then one that I had in Zagora.

By the way, There’s another way – other than book these tour from Marrakech or Fes. My friend has been there long time ago, he took public bus to Merzouga from Marrakech. Then he booked Sahara tour in Merzouga for 2D1N, It will be cheaper and most important thing, you can experience the real Sahara!

So now, it’s your choice 😉