New tourist attraction in Morocco? Burying yourself in the sand dunes

How is this for a tourist attraction? Digging holes in Morocco and burying yourself in the sand dunes of Merzouga.

For around 10 minutes visitors are buried neck-deep in the hot sand for therapy said to cure those who suffer from rheumatism, lumbago, polyarthritis and some skin disorders.

The therapy has the same effect as a sauna session, helping purge the body of poisonous toxins, according to those tribesmen such as Abdessalam Sadoq who now work in wellness tourism.

“We offer every type of tourism here, but especially for health,” he said.

Making a living was not always easy for the descendants of the Ait Atta nomads, and over the decades the sons and daughters of those who roamed the desert on camels have had to attune themselves to more modern ways.

Visitors in search of a cure do not come only from abroad: many Moroccans also firmly believe in the power of the desert.

“I really feel much better, and each year I come back here to spend a week,” said sciatica sufferer Ali Kallamouche from the central town of Beni Mellal.

A sand bath at Merzouga costs up to 10 euros (S$16), and when “patients” shake off the sand they are wrapped in hot towels to avoid the shock of a sudden cooling of the body.

Photos: AFP

“People come for sand baths and to taste the local dishes we make using medicinal plants and herbs,” said Sadoq, who also heads an association to promote tourism in the Sahara.

Morocco topped the Middle East and North Africa list in health tourism, with the industry growing more than 67 percent since 2007. - AFP