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Morocco/Essaouria to Merzouga

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Hi -- I am in Essaouria and hoping to get some advice on making my way to Merzougo for a trek in the desert and then possibly onto Azizal before I head to Fez.

I was planning on doing Merzouga first, and then looping back for Azizal. Does this make sense? Are there any buses from Merzouga to Azizal that don't go all the way back to Marrekech?

I have a bus from Essaouria to Tinerhir, and was wondering if it's worth it to stop at the Torra Gorge and/or Ziz Gorge. Are these both so crowded that it makes more sense just to burn straight through to Merzouga?

Once in Merzouga is it possible to find a guide to the desert that isn't part of some tour but is still reliable? I'm guessing its best to go through my riad?

Is Azizal/Cascades d'Ouzourd so wonderful that it just can't be missed? In other words, would I deeply regret skipping the cascades and going straight from Merzouga to Fez? I'm hoping to do this all in 5-6 days.

Thanks for any input and looking forward to updating my time in Marrakesh (where I can highly recommend the Riad Menzeh, Terrace des Epices, gardens behind the Koutoubia and the orange juice just about anywhere).

jb

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