Erg, reg, hamada: types of terrain in the desert

The Sahara has many faces and its landscape is changing every hour when you walk through it. It may be just a few hour walk between an erg – area solely covered by sand dunes, a reg – soft, flat surface, and a hamada – rocky terrain.

Erg, reg, hamada… types of terrain in the desert

What is hamada?

Some of desert terrains, like hamada, may seem quite unfriendly. They are vast simply rocky plateaus, covered by rocks. The sand has been erased through centuries, leaving only stones and pebbles in a hardened gravel. That’s why hamadas are known also as “desert pavements”.

Most of the Sahara desert is covered by hamadas or regs. However, they are both known under different names in different regions. In some sources word “hamada” is intechangable with “reg”. Yet in languages of nomadic peoples from around M’hamid El Ghizlane, hamada refers only to a rocky desert, where sand has been removed by natural processes, while regs are areas of solely sand, hardened by rain and wind.

There is a small hamada near M’hamid El Ghizlane, on the way from Desert Camp Chraika to to the palm grove and the old casbahs

Soft regs

The essence of traveling through the Sahara is change. When exploring area around our base camp, one will discover that hamada quickly convert into a dry river bed, to later become an oasis with palm trees growing amongst small sand dunes. And this is only a one-hour walk! Then one gets to reg – large flat, open space. The desert opens its gates.

Reg, in understanding of Saharawi peoples from around M’hamid, is a plateau made of hardened sand. This surface has been created in natural processes – mostly through precipitation. In some areas where people used to live and cultivate plants, abandoned farmlands became regs, too.

Ergs, travellers’ favourites

However, the most spectacular memories are created by visiting erg areas, like for example Erg Chegaga, or Erg Zahar. People come to these places from all over the world to watch the sunset!

Ergs are ever-changing areas of loose sand, shifting with the wind. In Morocco, there are two main ergs to visit: smaller, but more touristy Erg Chebbi with an entrance from Merzouga village, and the largest in Morocco Erg Chegaga, which stretches on over five hundred square kilometres of land.

Amazingly beautiful especially at the sunset and sunrise, they attract many visitors every day as main destination of desert tours.

Check out our tours to these beautiful places.