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When one hears the name “Sahara” it conjures images of a past full of bedouins, explorers, caravans and local peoples vying for the scarce natural resources available. in fact, things have not changed much.
During my travels I found my way to the small village of Merzouga in southeastern Morocco, on the edge of the vast Sahara. Merzouga is about 30 miles [50 kilometers] from the Algerian border. The village is known for its proximity to Erg Chebbi, a Saharan erg, and it is for this reason a relatively popular tourist destination.
Otherwise known as sand seas, ergs are the huge Saharan dunes of popular imagination. They cover about 20% of the Sahara desert and can stretch for hundreds of miles at heights of up to 1,000 feet [305 meters]. for example, the Grand Erg Occidental and Oriental cover most of Algeria; the Selima Erg blankets more than 3,000 square miles [7780 sq. km] in Libya; the Erg Cherch stretches for 600 miles [965 km] across Mali and Algeria. Formed in depressions, ergs, such as the Grand Erg of Bilma in Nigeria, can also contain large quantities of salt from dried-up ancient lakes that fuel the Sahara’s salt trade.
One other fact of note, Merzouga has the largest natural underground body of water in Morocco, and thusly can sustain human populations in an otherwise quite harsh environment.