After the long drive from Fez with our guide Lahcen, from Around Morocco Tours www.aroundmorocco.com, we arrived at the desert outpost of Merzouga after dark. We had traveled though miles of lonesome, barren land before reaching the welcome oasis of Merzouga, perched on the very edge of the Sahara Desert in an area called the Erg Chebbi.
The Riad Nezha was built in the traditional Moroccan Kasbah style, and was beautifully lit up at night with filigreed lamps and blazing lanterns. Rushing out to greet us, porters in elegant white robes and headdresses transported our luggage to our room while we were warmly welcomed with mint tea in the comfortable lobby. Throwing open the windows in our room, we saw the vast Sahara lit by the moonlight. After a delicious dinner of Moroccan vegetable soup and chicken tagine in the garden, we climbed up to the rooftop terrace to view the stars before retiring for the evening.
Breakfast was served on the rooftop terrace, with thatched umbrellas shading the mosaic stone tables from the relentless sun. While drinking fresh squeezed orange juice and feasting on fresh made breads and an assortment of potted treats, we marveled at the view before us. The morning sun reflected off the nearby dunes, casting purple shadows and highlighting the shimmering ripple patterns in the sand. A lush palm filled oasis surrounded our hotel, kept alive by an irrigation system that appeared to be under relentless attack by the encroaching sands.
The Riad Nezha appeared to have been fairly recently built, so it was fresh and clean with all of the modern amenities. The very elegant tile floors were covered with Berber rugs and the walls were made of some type of plaster with a straw texture. Traditional openwork Moroccan lights and delicate arches framed the interior spaces. A large sitting room, with pillow covered benches lining the walls, created a intimate space to visit with other guests while sipping tea out of delicate glass cups.
Our room was very comfortable, decorated with native Berber rugs and striped coverlets on the beds. The bathroom was spacious, with an open shower and ample hot water. We were fascinated by the women cleaning the tile floors, a monumental task in a hotel surrounded by desert. They first swept the sand away, then threw a bucket of soapy water across the tiles which they cleared away using a squeegee.
Mohammed, a handsome youth of about 24, who works as a doorman, waiter and general host, sat with us and visited while we waited for our guide to pick us up for the days adventure. Although he never went to college, he spoke fluent English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. He said he picked it up talking to tourists, who travel to Merzouga from all over the world. He said his uncle, Brahim Karaoui owned the hotel, but he was away during our visit.
Our guide took us to the nearby village of Khamlia where we entertained by the local musicians playing Gnaoua music on ganga drums, castanets and a 3-stringed lute. That afternoon, we set off from the hotel on camels for an overnight camping experience in their Berber tented bivouac. Our desert guide, Ahmed Kojjot [--], grew up as a desert nomad and seemed to know every dune and grain of sand. I have written about that in my trip report:
The next morning, we returned to the Riad Nezha for breakfast and a shower before continuing our.
If you are planning on having a desert experience on your trip to Morocco, I recommend that you visit Merzouga and Erg Chebbi. The Riad Nezha is a wonderful place to stay, with a friendly and attentive staff, delicious food, comfortable rooms and a traditional décor.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Welcome to Merzouga!!Book your stay at the amazing ***Riad Nezha*** is an absorbed heaven in the green of the palms of the Village of Merzouga. A fantastic location, panorama and an environment where relaxation and rest are guaranteed!!!at Riad Nezha we do offer all different excursion around Merzouga!!! ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Riad Nezha Merzouga
- Riad Nezha Hotel Merzouga