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The Sahara Desert is relatively young, in terms of the planet’s history. It is thought that approx. 6000 years ago there was a shift in the Earth’s axis, which caused such a change in usual weather patterns, i.e. lack of rainfall, that what were once rich grasslands (savannah) gradually became parched earth with the encroachment of the desert.

The drought near the frontier village of M’hamid El Ghezlane continues, as rich agricultural land of just 10 years ago (and some 6km away from the village), is now a dust plateau with some remnants of crops growing through in early Spring. The field boundaries are still visible when trekking through this area.

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Anticipating reaching the end of the tarmac road, at either M’hamid El Ghezlane or at Foum Zguid, to cross the desert terrain to reach the great dunes of Erg Chigaga, you may expect to simply drive across a mass of sand and rolling dunes.

Not so. Less than 20% of the Sahara Desert is sand. The 5hr off-road journey by 4×4, or a camel trekking holiday, will also introduce you to desert trees & scrub, hamada (black desert stone), earth plateaux, former villages & earth structures, dried river beds, salt flats and mountain ridges.

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The Sahara Desert covers approx. one-third of the African continent, equivalent in size to the United States of America, or almost the size of China.

The Erg Chigaga sand dunes stretch for approx. 40km in length, the longest sand sea in Morocco. To traverse the Erg Chigaga region from east to west, road to road, takes 5hrs by 4×4, yet is only approx. 160km. 

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It is said that the largest lake on the planet was once in the Sahara Desert, with white sediment from the lake bed visible today.

Evidence of former lakes is apparent in the Erg Chigaga region, the largest is the salt flats of Lake Iriqui, west of Erg Chigaga. Incredibly, this dried lake was under water for the first time in nearly a decade, at the beginning of March 2013.

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The dromedary (camel) is a domesticated animal which was introduced to the Sahara Desert by humans and is usually dependent on humans for extra food & water sources. A dromedary may live up to 40yrs of age and can start bearing loads from about the age of 5yrs. Depending on the time of year, it can go without water for up to 15 days. In hotter conditions, water is necessary every 4 days.

The herds of dromedary you may encounter in the desert are being watched over by handlers, and are put out to pasture, particularly at the time of calving (Spring).

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