Landscape photography in Morocco

Landscape photography in Morocco

Visiting the Erg Chigaga

A guest article by landscape photographer, Michael Breitung. More on Michael’s landscape photography below. This version has been updated for some new images from 2023/2024 (first published in 2020).

We are running another photography tour together from 1st February 2025, after a series of successful trips. Further details here.

Landscape photography in Morocco

An endless sea of sand painted in golden hues by the setting sun – to witness moments like this I travelled to the Erg Chigaga in Morocco. Here in Germany it was still winter, but in Morocco February already felt like spring and in the desert we had comfortable temperatures of between 20 –25°C during day and down to 5°C at night.

Planning for Landscape Photography

Visiting the desert had been my dream for some time when I started planning our trip to Morocco. As I researched the different options, the Erg Chebbi came up most of the time. It’s a lot less remote than the Erg Chigaga and also much more visited. For me, visiting the desert meant finding tranquillity and for this the Erg Chigaga seemed to be the better option. Also, from my perspective as a landscape photographer I was certain that the vast expanse of the Chigaga would provide me with many photographic opportunities.

Camp Al Koutban, landscape photography Morocco

To plan my stay in the desert I first used Google Earth to get an overview of where to find the higher dunes and of where the different Berber Camps were located. Here I came across the Camp Al Koutban (pictured above, to the right of the dune). While most of the camps are located close to the edge of the Erg, the Camp Al Koutban was right in the middle of the dunes with the largest dune in the area just a 45-minute walk away. I got in contact with Wild Morocco, who provide several tour options into the Chigaga and all-around Morocco. We decided to book a 5-day itinerary and adjust it to our needs. In the end we spent one evening at the Hara Oasis Lodge, 2 nights in the desert, one evening in Ait Ben Haddou, before ending our trip in Essaouira.

Hara Oasis

From Marrakech it was a long drive across the Atlas Mountains towards Agdz. Along the way there were plenty opportunities to enjoy the views and around noon we visited one of the larger Kasbahs in the region, the Telhouet Kasbah. It was fascinating to see the different architectural styles intermixed in those historic buildings. Then we drove on towards the Draa Valley until we finally reached the Hara Oasis lodge in the afternoon. This place was exactly what we needed after our first two days in Marrakech. The atmosphere at the lodge was so relaxed and calm that we were sad to leave after just one night.

Jebel Kissane, Agdz, landscape photography Morocco

Camp Al Koutban

But this sad feeling was quickly replaced by the excitement of finally visiting the desert. Yet again, a few hours of driving lay between us and our destination. The good thing about such remote places as the Erg Chigaga is that you can only get there by 4×4. This means you don’t have to fear busloads of tourists suddenly being dropped at a viewpoint next to you. Surely during high season the Chigaga will also get a bit more crowded because of the number of camps in the area. But if you decide to visit in one of the off-season months as we did you can literally have the dunes for yourself.

Erg Chigaga night skies, landscape photography Morocco

The camp itself was pure luxury. We had a huge tent fitted with carpets, a comfortable bed and many blankets. In a separate building the toilets and showers were housed. It was even possible to get a warm shower in the evening. In the middle of the camp a campfire was setup. The highlight of the camp besides its unique location though was the food. Here we got the real taste of Morocco: the flavour of the food was rich and it was perfectly spiced.

The Dunes

The dunes were spread right around the camp, but to photograph the endless desert I had to hike to some of the higher dunes in the area. An excellent viewpoint could already be reached in about 15 minutes. Here I photographed the Milky Way over the desert one morning.

Milky Way above Erg Chigaga dunes

But there was an even higher dune a bit further away. A 30-minute walk brought us to the foot of the supposedly highest dune in the Erg Chigaga. It took us around 15 minutes to climb it and once we crested the top of the dune I was speechless. This was exactly what I had come to see. With such a great view we weren’t the only people up there the first evening. But the dune is big enough to provide some space. Still I wanted to have this view for myself, so I went back the next morning to enjoy the orange glow of dawn on the dunes.

Erg Chigaga dunes, landscape photography Morocco

Ait Ben Haddou

We could easily have stayed another two days in the desert, but again it was time to leave. Our last stop on our way to the coast was Ait Ben Haddou. But not before a long off-road drive through a spectacular landscape with huge canyon walls. With the right light, those views would again have made for some great photos – maybe another time (*we include a night wild camping here during the photo tour). We arrived in Ait Ben Haddou in the afternoon, just as most of the day visitors left. An hour before sunset we explored the Kasbah, took the typical photo across the river and enjoyed the calm atmosphere. With only a few people left exploring the alleyways we enjoyed our visit. I can only imagine how packed this place can become during day when the busses of the day tours stop here.

Ait Ben Haddou at dusk, landscape photography Morocco

The last part of our journey with Wild Morocco brought us to the coast, to the windy city of Essaouira. The five days had gone like a breeze, much too fast. It didn’t take long for us to miss the silence, the great food and the vast nature. The Erg Chigaga and Camp Al Koutban are definitely a place to visit again.

About the Author

Michael Breitung is a freelance landscape photographer from Germany who loves to travel. His travels have taken him all across the world and he had the chance to visit and photograph many wonderful places. Wide scenic landscapes, waterfalls, mountain vistas and coasts are his favourite subjects. You can see more of his landscape photography on his homepage https://www.mibreit-photo.com

The Spirit of Community in Morocco

The Spirit of Community in Morocco

Morocco’s culture and spirit of community

“So, what can I expect when I visit Morocco, tell me something more about Morocco’s culture?” It’s so close to Europe, yet so much further beyond in terms of culture and history. The Arabic name given for Morocco by medieval historians and geographers is ‘al-Maghrib al-Aqsa’, translated as furthest Westerly Kingdom (of the Maghreb countries, in North West Africa). Morocco is just 13km from mainland Spain, and even shares a land border with Spanish territory.

I would urge you to read something of my insight into Morocco’s culture. What follows is what you glean when living in a small community in Morocco, not from the books or the media, or from a short visit. We’ve previously touched on some of the cultural aspects in other blog posts, such as the tea ceremony, and social etiquette with greetings. The guide-books will also help you steer clear of any basic faux-pas, or you can certainly ask your driver/guide during your trip about Morocco’s culture.

Morocco's Culture and Spirit of Community

Use the below as a benchmark to guide your expectations of the Kingdom (and, certainly, of the warm welcome you can expect to receive!). Please do ask us about travelling during Ramadan, Eid al-Adha, and other religious festivities, as they can be quite magical times to visit the Kingdom and should not be ruled out as no-go periods. Such national holidays are a vital part of Morocco’s culture and if you get to experience them, so much the better.

Note: I first wrote this post about seven years ago. Since then, we’ve all gone through the covid pandemic and the devastating earthquake in September 2023. Without going in to detail, the overriding feeling I have taken is the sense of solidarity and support from within Morocco’s mountain communities and the country as a whole – the nation has each other’s backs, to put it bluntly! If that doesn’t speak volumes about Morocco’s culture and spirit of community then what does?…

Morocco's Culture

Morocco’s culture and spirit of community

  1. Gratitude and happiness are derived and enjoyed from what you have in life, not from that for which you yearn. In other words, you are content with your lot in life. Take pleasure from the simple things (such as the beauty of nature) and be thankful to God at all times.
  2. Treating a guest generously and selflessly. A Moroccan proverb says ‘The guest is always a guest, even if he stays for winter and summer’. Moroccans regard travellers and foreign residents as guests in their country and Moroccans take the safety of visitors as a point of honour.
  3. Charity begins at home and is then very much continued outside of the home. One of the pillars of Islam and embedded in Morocco’s culture/spirit of community.
  4. The ability to share freely, e.g. a small meal will always go a long way and a stranger is never allowed to go hungry. Often those who have the least to share, are the most generous.
  5. An open-door policy and acceptance, the knowledge that you are welcome in a stranger’s home, and at face value.
  6. The family unit is key and many generations still share the same home; this promotes selflessness. There may only be one bread-winner supporting a large family (and he will likely be your driver, guide, chef, support team). Respect for elders, especially your parents, is integral to Morocco’s culture.
  7. Knowing your neighbours and treating them as an extension of the family. You may have to call upon them in times of need. This also leads on to the fact that everyone knows each other’s business (good or bad!).
  8. Above all, bear in mind that underpinning all of this is the Muslim faith and the piety of Moroccans. Please ask us about travelling during Ramadan and Eid.
  9. Please see note above on solidarity and support from within.

Please contact us for any further insights in to Morocco’s culture and community spirit.

Please visit our Instagram feed for further images.

 

Our Top 5 Things to Do in Morocco

Our Top 5 Things to Do in Morocco

You can’t possibly do and see everything that Morocco has to offer in one trip. If you can experience our top 5 things to do in Morocco that will be eye-opening enough (and, hopefully, inspire you to visit us again).
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The Iriqui National Park

The Iriqui National Park

Iriqui National Park

Created in 1994, Iriqui National Park was established to protect the biodiversity, flora and fauna across 123,000 hectares of south-eastern Morocco, and in particular to preserve the temporary wetlands of Lake Iriqui, at the heart of the desert.
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