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Im still reading here and there, and noticed it showing still on the new edition of the Michelin map, of which I have always recommended as the best map for the roads around Morocco, that the main road to Merzouga and therefore the desert dunes and so on as being direct from Erfoud bypassing Rissani ie the piste/rough road is from Rissani and the main road is from Erfoud
**This is not the case! The road has been tar sealed all the way between Rissani and Merzouga and actually on to Taouz for about 10 years now - and many auberges are clearly signposted with their own piste roads off this road.
and nor is Erfoud the best or closest place to stay at if you are talking about visiting the desert!
Rissani is the closest town to Merzouga and the desert - its the major town with the big markets/souks that people come from all directions, particularly the sahara desert, to buy and sell at - its the place that was the Royal city and ancient capital of old Sijilmassa - and it is the town that has the access road all the way to Merzouga and thus the desert dunes and all the desert camel trips you might want to do.
Please note I have some very recommended hotel tips for places to stay if you want to visit Morocco's sahara desert and they are in my Rissani, Merzouga or Morocco pages...and not Erfoud!
so when you get to Erfoud keep on going on the main road to Rissani and then on to wherever youre staying or visiting in the Merzouga area - you can stay at Rissani if you want - theres recommended hotels in my Rissani page - or continue on and stay at one of the many auberges with sahara dunes in view. The hotels are signposted off the bitumen road - many have piste roads that take you to their hotels from off the main Rissani-Merzouga bitumen but are usually in good condition for any normal car to drive on.
Its the road from Erfoud going out to to the desert onwards from the top hotel Derkaoua that you need a 4x4 unless you have a local with you that knows the way and is good with driving in sand - weve been a few times and a number of times had sandy bits to deal with or push the car through but I was with a local... the road comes out the top of the road that the runs along the dunes from Merzouga up to Hotel Yasmina and Hamada auberge.
If you dont have your own vehicle and you are getting out into the desert by minivan or bus from Rissani I would just go into Merzouga town and work out a place to stay there - perhaps if you are offered transport to thes Yasmina auberge then take the opportunity (its at the far end of the dunes furthest away from the opposite end of the dunes at Merzouga town)
but definitely dont get enticed to go to hustler places such as the Hamada auberge...nor Sable Dor as well - in league with the Hamada auberge.
Twice daily buses arrive and leave from the centre of Merzouga town about 730 am and 730pm.
Updated Sep 9, 2011
Our Taureg dune guide was very cheerful and really eager to please. He was insistent that he take our photograph. I handed over the camera and later found out that I had been cut off at mid forehead. Oh well, that's ok. I know what I look like and don't need to have pictures of myself cluttering up the photo albums.
Written Feb 1, 2005