While Erfoud is a striking enough destination in itself, its sobriquet gives it a whole new dimension, for this cubic, gilded town represents the so-called ‘Gateway to the Sahara’. Welcome to the last stop before a desert adventure begins.
The understated surroundings never fail to stir visitors. Sand-coloured buildings, squat and cube-like, punctuate the souks and hustle of a thriving market town. The excitement is palpable, and the atmosphere kinetic. It feels as though the Sahara, aware of its surroundings, is subtly preparing travellers for the journey ahead. Romanticised images of desert life, of camels and tribes, of dunes and infinite starlit skies, begin to swirl and formulate in the minds of visitors.
However, amongst the rhythmic sway of Erfoud lies an almost incongruous sight. Verdant greenery, a bold contrast with its dusty surroundings, snakes its way through the oasis town. While this may be nothing new, with similar pockets of foliage existing in nearby Tinghir, for instance, it is no less conspicuous. Morocco is a nation of breathtaking rugged beauty, where the golden desert expanse and unending brown hills clash with the white peaks of the distant Atlas Mountains. To see such a vibrant clash sets the heart racing. In amongst the harsh coarseness of desert living, Erfoud’s greenery offers much-needed room to breathe.
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Further beyond the gateway beyond lies the promise of adventure and the gaping maw of the Sahara. Soon enough rocky desert tracks replace the sandy roads. Carcasses of 4×4 vehicles appear with increasing frequency. Mirages play tricks with the mind and the sun, unencumbered by clouds, beats upon the colossal plain below. The journey south to Merzouga on the desert’s boundaries is a tough one, but as Erfoud disappears into the receding horizon, the gateway sears itself with an indelible imprint on the heart and soul of all who see it.