from marrakesh to erg chigaga

In October 2013, I visited Marrakesh, one of the former imperial cities of the Kingdom of Morocco.  It was founded in 1062 by a Berber chieftain named Abu Bakr ibn Umar.  The city grew rapidly over the centuries and became a cultural, religious and trading centre of the region.  It is the site of the busiest square and marketplace in all of Africa, called Jemaa el-Fnaa.

Marrakesh was the capital of the vast imperial Berber Muslim Almoravid empire.  As the capital, many construction projects were built, including sophisticated waterworks systems based on gravity-fed underground canals.  The availability of water attracted several merchants and craftsmen to the city, including tanners, who were the first of such to arrive.  Leather tanneries are Marrakesh's most famous industry.

Lying to the southeast of Marrakesh, over the Atlas Mountains, is the Sahara desert.  I have a love for the shapes and shadows of sand dunes, so I included a journey to Erg Chigaga.  An erg is a flat area of desert covered in wind-swept sand dunes, also known as a sand or dune sea.  Erg Chigaga is the largest, untouched erg in Saharan Morocco.  Some of the dunes are as high as 300 metres.  With its relatively difficult accessibility, 4x4 vehicles are required.  Overnight stays are possible in luxury tent camps, where tents are outfitted with four poster beds, sofas are placed adjacent to tents to view star filled evening skies, and outdoor dining of the daily tagine is candle lit with silverware and tablecloth.

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