The Sahara Desert cuts across Africa – from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea – creating a natural barrier that has been one of the greatest challenges for travelers for thousands of years. It used to take Camel Caravans two or three months to make this treacherous journey, exchanging luxury goods from West Africa to the Mediterranean. Fortunately for travelers in the 20th century, there are paved roads that connect these two worlds, making this journey possible.
In 2008 we attempted to make the journey across the Sahara Desert, with the goal of traveling overland from Morocco to West Africa. Along the way we would cover thousands of kilometers, crossing one of the most extreme places on the planet, the Sahara Desert. Of course, we had many challenges along the way – a long story worth saving for another day – but we survived one of the most epic road trips of all time.
We began this journey in Tangiers, traveling through Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania, eventually exiting the desert in Mali. From the top of the African continent, we traveled south to Chefchouen and continued towards the desert outpost of Erfoud eventually heading back west towards the Atlantic Ocean.
Our mission was to cross Morocco, so we made quick time across the county, only making a few stops along the way – including nights spent sleeping in Aït Benhaddou, the Todra Gorge, and Marrakesh – eventually reaching the Atlantic town of Essouria. We crossed the High Atlas mountains and entered the Sahara Desert.
We followed the Atlantic coast most of the way south; from just south of Agadir we stayed on the coast, following the newly paved road which cuts all the way south from Morocco to Senegal. We spent a night camped out on the beach near Tan-Tan and another in Layounne before we really started feeling remote. As the journey wore on, our vehicle began to feel the intensity of the desert, which forced us to spend two nights in Daklah, and later a full five long days in Nouakchott.
From the Mauritanian capital, we cut east and traveled along the infamous “Road of Hope” before finally cutting back south, and eventually arriving in Mali, where the relentless desert “ends” and the semi-arid Sahel begins. We had survived – just barely – one of the most intense journeys of our lives.
These are my favourite pictures from this adventure.
Explorers in Africa. 2008.
Chefchouen Sunset. 2008