In Morocco pharmacists are able to provide and prescribe many drugs over the counter and are very knowledgeable and therefore very helpful if you become unwell...problems such as gastric upsets, diarrhea, urinary infections and so on can be set on the right track with a visit to a pharmacist. But Merzouga no longer has a pharmacy so anything you might need beforehand be aware that Rissani, about 30 kms away, has your closest pharmacies.
There are several pharmacies in Rissani and they are open to fairly late at night.
There is a doctor in Merzouga though which is very good to know and your hotel can locate him for you if you are so unwell that you need him to come to you. For a fee of course. But he will have a good range of medications with him that will be included in his fee. Most auberges in Merzouga are pretty good and will take you to him if need be.
There was what was called a supermarche in Merzouga on the main road to Rissani but it has since closed. The new Afriquia service station about 3km along the road to Rissani has a small shop with a range of items that might be of some help to you.
As for money machines or ATMs there are none in Merzouga and the Post Office is pretty much the only place to change money but i would not leave it until arriving in Merzouga as you are going to have problems if you arrive on a day it is shut or has shut early...and bear in mind Post Offices tend to shut at 3pm.
For a long time the closest ATMs were out at Erfoud and the last couple of years the ATM at Rissani has become more reliably in service. If you do happen to stop at Erfoud it could be a safer bet to withdraw or change money in Erfoud.
one of the rottenest of the faux guides in Risanni, Rachid Refaff- telling me he must drive the piste to the lahmada and nearly writing the tyres off on the rocks totally unable to drive for the conditions, another time nearly ran a guy over on his motorbike and then was going to head into town after him to 'put a knife through his head'!!
lead me astray thats for sure - took me to the Lahmada auberge to be charged 250 dhm for 2 hour sunrise tour when it shouldve been only 150 dirham, not a great deal but its the principle!! he travelled with me making out he was a good guy but taking advantage of my ignorance - took me to the co owner of the Lahmada who has a carpet shop in Risanni to see an 'exposition' - which is pretty common in Morocco and with good people really worth watching to learn about Moroccan carpets and even then it is worth buyng one as a nice souvenir and investment of your visit to Morocco...but...for my first time in Morocco he showed me and sold me commercial carpets for a good commission to himself but travelled further afield around morocco with me paying and then also got a huge commission i later found out for a carpet worth only 14,000 dirham that i agreed 22,000 - paid only 20,000 - sounds like i am a dumb cluck but i was ignorant and gullible but is that such a bad thing when i am honest and straight up?
its an organised rort amongst some of these businesses which for me thankfully finished up with him going to extreme with repetitive drinking and drunken episodes with hashish included with his mates and he revealed himself to become very violent in these situations.
THIS COUPLE HAVE SINCE MOVED TO AUBERGE ERG CHEBBI - HAVE CONTINUED TO RECEIVE REPORTS OF RACHIDS UNSAVOURY AND PROMISCUOUS BEHAVIOUR
You can drive to the dunes, but make sure you don't leave the tracks or decide to igneore the marking on the way back as you will have nothing in the horizon to focus on.
The road is on level with the sand and can't be seen from a distance. It is easy to lose your bearings so be sensible. Follow the poles and stone piles and other car tracks.
This will safely guide you back.
If you have rented a car in Morocco you should be very careful driving around Merzouga as the roads are not in great condition and, perhaps more importantly, your insurance might not be valid on the pistes. We drove on pistes for 6km from the main road to the hotel and for the return trip and we took it very slowly. There was no alternative as the only way to the hotels on the dunes is via the pistes. Our hotel was full of 4x4s, and I think they were surprised to see anyone cross the piste in a Fiat Uno.
We had walked out on to the dunes to see the sunset but as soon as it went down a very strong wind rose up and blew sand everywhere. It was swirling and no matter which way we walked we seemed to be going against it. With all the sand in the air, our hotel, which we had been able to see in the distance a few moments before, had disappeared and we were sufficiently alarmed to start making our way back. We were about 45 minutes away from the hotel and it was difficult at times walking back in the wind. Once we descended to the lower dunes things got easier and we even stopped to take a few pictures. Had we been further away we may have easily got lost as visibility was much reduced. I guess the lesson is to never underestimate the desert and to always carry a compass and sufficient supplies.
It doesn't matter how many people tell you that the desert is freezing at night, it still takes you by surprise when you find out just how cold it really is. I slept in the desert in Sudan so I knew what to expect, but Merzouga was even colder - especially in January.
I asked one of the local guides here about the possibility of sleeping outside in the open air (in a sleeping bag, I'm not totally stupid!) - ever since living in Sudan I've had a thing about sleeping out under the stars - and he laughed at the crazy foreigner and said, "Yes of course. But in the morning we can make ice cream out of you!" So I stayed in the tent.
It was well below freezing and even in full dress, sleeping bag and good tent I was shivering all night long. Of course I'd do it all over again if I could - sleeping out in the desert is awesome - but I'm just warning you!
Popping a tire on the way to-from Merzouga stinks. I believe we had 8 people packed into our 2-door Peugot when I was going about a hundred Mph over the terrain they run the Dakaar-rally on. Well, I hit a large jump and came down on top of a large rock, shredding my right-rear tire to peices.