The Sahara Desert
The Sahara Desert
The Sahara desert, also called simply the Sahara, is the largest hot desert region on the planet, with an area of nearly 4 million square miles (9 million km2).
It occupies most of North Africa and its edges are hard to define, covering the entire African coast from east to west with the Sahel belt being its southern border. At its northern end its reaches towards the Mediterranean on the Egyptian side and ends about 300 miles (500 km) from the Moroccan Mediterranean coast.
Why the Sahara?
A fond memory for many travelers is seeing and crossing the sand dunes, enjoying a starry sky and sleeping in a tent in the desert. But to summarize the Sahara in that experience would be to reduce an entire world to a striking postcard.
Starting with its geographical wealth and contrasts, with the hamada or stony outcroppings which are actually more common than the sandy desert (erg). Living lakes that attract all kinds of fauna sharing space with other dried up lakes with mirages as a distant backdrop. A microcosm where oasis coexist with mountain ranges and gravel plains.
Equally important is its culture, a synthesis of African and Berber influences with manifestations in the fields of music, dance and writing.
But if it stands out for something, it’s for its people. Desert dwellers are used to living in a harsh environment with the necessary support of their community. They firmly value cooperation, coexistence and generosity. They have a deep knowledge and love of their environment, great physical and psychological toughness and a concept of time detached from conventions and linked to memorable moments.
Just as the landscape of the dunes fills our eyes, the attitude of the desert people permeates our minds.
The climate of the Sahara is characterized by having little rainfall, hot days and cool nights. The biggest differences are in summer, when it’s hotter and drier and has a greater temperature difference between day and night. In winter, it enjoys milder temperatures during the day but is much colder at night.
In one way or another, and regardless of when you decide to travel, the Sahara is an unpredictable environment where it’s always a good idea to take certain precautions, such as wearing sunglasses and sunscreen, breathable and comfortable clothing, a cap and a scarf to protect you from the sun and wind and sturdy and ankle-covering footwear. For the night it’s a good idea to bring some warm clothing, a warm hat and a sleeping bag.
There are multiple ways to visit the Sahara. It’s common to do it from Egypt, Tunisia or Niger, although the most common option is Morocco.
The best option is to take the eight-hour road trip from Marrakech or the ten-hour road trip from Fez.
In organized excursions from Marrakech, the trip out to the desert takes two days, spending the first day in Boulmane Dades, and the return takes just one day. In addition to enjoying the beauty of the High Atlas Mountains dotted with small Berber villages, other places that you can visit are Aït Ben Haddou, the Valley of the Roses or the Gorges of Todra.
If you start in Fez, both the outward and return journeys take one day, passing through Ifrane, Azrou or the Ziz Valley.
Other options are the public bus, Supratours being the best known company, or hiring a private transport service. The second option has the advantage of having a more personalized and more leisurely itinerary, for example, from Merzouga to Marrakech in two days.