Are you interested in seeing the beautiful palm oasis in Morocco? Then Erfoud and its surroundings are the best choice. It is one of the best places to visit in the south of Morocco on the way to the Sahara. It is located in the middle of the desert where the beautiful oases are located along with the tall palm groves that will lead you along the way. Known as the ‘Gateway to the Desert’, this is also a great destination for filmmakers due to the quality of the natural light and the beauty of the surrounding villages and desert oases. If you are considering going to the south of Morocco, you should definitely visit Erfoud to see its beauty and charm with your own eyes.
General Information About Erfoud
Erfoud is the starting point of four-wheel-drive excursions and multi-day camel rides in the region of Tafilalet. The town is located on the border of the Tizimi palm grove with the Tafilalet Valley, stretching as far as the eye can see between the Ziz Valley and the Rheris Valley.
Known as the “Gateway to the Desert”, Erfoud is a charming town in the south of Morocco that every traveler should definitely visit once for its beauty. It is also a paradise for fossil hunters. The most unique fossilized species were found here, especially the trilobites. From here it’s not that difficult to get to beautiful spots, in fact, you can easily take an off-road track directly to the dunes. You might be surprised to learn that this place has been used for some of the most popular movies of all time, such as The Mummy and the Prince of Persia. Because of its amazing structure, many become interested in traveling to this place to explore and discover what it has to offer.
In Erfoud, you can spend a lot of time exploring the local tourist destinations. This small town is home to a number of businesses, kashas, restaurants, etc. that provide plenty of entertainment, fun, and excitement.
The Moroccan Sahara and Pre-Sahara
Once beyond the Atlas, Morocco consists of a vast area that includes not only the Sahara but also a pre-Saharan area. This area connects Morocco with black Africa, beyond Mauritania. The current population consists of diverse residents from all regions. This area experiences more than 6 months of drought annually, while the amount of rain is usually lower. The summer drought is exacerbated by the high temperatures due to the continental nature of this region. The landscape seems empty in some places, the population is concentrated in oases with their irrigation cultures. The nomads, whose numbers are declining, can still be found in some rural areas. Despite the efforts made to reforest the area, these efforts were mostly unsuccessful, partly due to the somewhat unfavorable weather conditions, but also due to the lack of financial and human resources, resources needed to maintain and monitor it.
Morocco is a hot country, you will tend to drink a lot. So you have to make sure that your body stays hydrated. Do not quench your thirst with tap water. Don’t listen to the Moroccans who assure you it’s not a problem and it’s drinkable because it could get worse. It is true that the population drinks it without any problems, but it is because their organism can withstand it. Soft drinks and fruit juice are widely available. Alcoholic drinks can be bought in restaurants, hotels, and supermarkets.
The Berbers are the first inhabitants of the country and they are of course everywhere in Morocco. Their name comes from the Latin Barbarus because the Romans considered anyone who was not part of their culture or who they could not understand as barbarian. The Berbers call themselves Imazighen or free people, the semi-nomads you mainly find on the lower flanks of the Middle Atlas. Their ancestors founded the Almoravid dynasty. They cultivate the land. In the Middle Atlas, the soil is very fertile. Along the route from Errachidia to Ouarzazate, however, except in oases, the ground has dried out due to too little rain. Many of these Berbers left their homes to study or work in major cities across the country, and it is very common to see Berbers performing important jobs. However, they continue to maintain close ties to their native village and tribe. Their language was not officially recognized in the Moroccan constitution until 2011 after years of repression and tension.
It seems that “les gazelles” roam all over the country, from the Atlantic Ocean to the desert, because that’s what tourists are called! Don’t get it wrong: it’s meant to be kind! Gazelles, which also mean Al-Ghazal in Arabic and Tamlalt in Berber, have a friendly meaning: honey, it also means beauty. So don’t get confused if someone calls you “gazelle”. It can also be a compliment, depending on where and how you say it.
This is not a joke at all. Those looking to experience something unusual while traveling in the desert can enjoy the many health benefits associated with a sand bath. During the dry seasons, many Moroccans, also from abroad, come to take a sand bath as a remedy for rheumatic diseases, back pain, arthritis, and some skin disorders. It seems that if you lie in the sand for at least an hour, you will feel the difference. If you have any health concerns, consult a medical professional before undergoing this treatment.
Let’s return to the beauty of the landscape, the charm of small villages, the joy of living in a country where life is truly an art. Below are a number of villages that are located near Erfoud.
If you travel from Tafilalet to Ouarzazate you will pass through Erfoud and Jorf. Here too, the landscape shows a series of kasbahs and palm groves. But beyond the Jorf slope you can see an old irrigation system, hundreds of small potholes about a meter high on either side of the road. In fact, they are wells that go deep into the ground to reach the groundwater, for over a great distance.
Towards Tinghir is a platform from which one has a beautiful view over the old part of the town with its clay and straw houses and palm groves. Before the entrance to the town, if you take the road on the right, you will come to the gorges of the Todra which are truly spectacular. The jagged rock walls reach a height of 300 meters in several places. The river Todra runs through this gorge, which needs to be crossed to reach hotels and restaurants. To visit the Todra Gorges, the road winds past numerous villages and past special rock formations. A pass takes you through the gorge to a wonderful starting point for hikes.
Rissani has been the capital of the Tafilalet area for centuries and was the last glimpse of civilization for caravans heading south. Here, packs of cloth, dates, and especially salt are loaded onto camels on their way to Sudan. In 1640 the current ruling Alawite royal house of King Mohamed VI settled in the old part. The king is a descendant of Moulay Ali-Cherif, the first sultan and founder of the dynasty. On the way to Erfoud is a beautiful ksar with a wonderful panorama of the oases of Tafilalt, further on you can see the scattered ruins of ancient Sijilmassa.
Rissani is today an important center where the inhabitants of the region make their purchases. The bustling market takes place three times a week and it is an advantage to get to know the traditions of the locals, here is also a meeting place for traders and residents of the region, they meet every market day that they would never see otherwise. Not only are the necessary purchases made here, but all kinds of news are also exchanged. In the souks, the price is still negotiated the old-fashioned way. Nearby is the historic mausoleum of Moulay Ali-Cherif, the founder of the Alawite dynasty. Behind this mausoleum are ruins of the ksar Abbar. Furthermore, you can see the Ksar Oulad Abdelhalim.
Merzouga and the dunes of Erg Chebbi
This cannot be missed! from Erfoud, it is about 55 km via a tarmac road. The best times here are at sunset or sunrise. It is so interesting to watch the sun sink into the horizon and take on a beautiful sky color. An overnight stay in a luxury desert camp at the foot of high orange sand dunes is highly recommended. It will certainly be a fun experience.
Getting into the City
You should be somewhat familiar with the modes of travel in Morocco to reach Erfoud easily. The moment you step into southern Morocco, you have to go straight to Rissani. There you also get easy access to the dunes of Erg Chebbi. To make your journey more adventurous, you have to drive about 13 km on asphalt road and then another 26 km on the desert track and then you will come to the famous Sahara dunes. Don’t let this discourage you. If you are a real thrill-seeker, this won’t be a problem for you. Before the construction of the asphalt road between Rissani and Merzouga, Erfoud was especially popular with travelers and was known as a base for visiting the sand dunes of Erg Chebbi. Now that this is no longer the case, the city is in danger of falling into long winter sleep.
If you go to the town of Erfoud via the N12, you have to drive through Rissani or directly across the river to Erfoud. If you plan to travel to the city by car, there are two main roads. One is the R702 which connects Erfoud with nearby towns such as Jorf, Tinghir, Tinejdad, and especially Ouarzazate. The second is via the N12 which connects the region with the province of Zagora. The other road is the N13 which connects Errachidia and Erfoud itself.
Road distances from Erfoud to other cities of Morocco:
- – Erfoud to Rissani : 19 km (N12)
- – Erfoud to Merzouga: 55 km (R702)
- – Erfoud to Errachidia: 80 km (via N13)
- – Erfoud to Ouarzazate: 315 km (N10)
- – Erfoud to Fez: 440 km (N13)
- – Erfoud to Marrakech: 510 km
Traveling to Erfoud by Bus
If you choose to travel to Erfoud by bus, you will take a different route from the western part of the city. If you are traveling from Marrakech, you have the choice of taking the road that runs through the Draa Valley or the Dades Valley. You can buy the ticket from 3 of the most popular ticketing agencies. Actually, you only have 3 options: the Supratous Ticket Office, bus counters at the bus station and finally the CTM Ticket Office.
From Marrakech, there is a daily bus from the company Supratours. Depart from the company’s main train station at 08:30 and arrive in Erfoud around 20:00. The ticket costs about 17 euros.
Once in Erfoud, you can explore the region on foot or by rental car. You will find many reasons to travel to Erfoud as it has a lot to offer for every traveler.