My friend and I returned to Auberge Takojt in March, a year after our first visit, with high expectations - and we were not disappointed. The hotel's welcoming exterior beckoned to us like open arms, and once inside we quickly settled in to familiar, comfortable surroundings. The hotel's owner, Mobarek, is personally invested in the quality of every guest's experience, no matter what brings them to the desert; to know this young man is to like him unreservedly. Our days were spent looking for birds and other wildlife in the Erg Chebbi dunes and surrounding desert, and in the lush and colorful palmeries; finding souvenirs and having cafe au lait in the fascinating shops of Merzouga; looking for fossils and other treasures in what remains of an ancient sea bed; four-wheeling through the dunes in search of the perfect sunset; relaxing in the hotel's serene patio or "tea tent"; and eagerly dining on the delicious dishes expertly prepared and beautifully presented by the amiable kitchen staff (our favorites were the delectable homemade breakfast pastries, the perfectly spiced tagines, the artfully arranged fruit plates and the aromatic sweet mint tea).
To add to all of that there was a big surprise this year, too: a stunning bivouac encampment out in the dunes, built into the limbs of a massive tamarisk tree, a testament to Mobarek's visionary genius. One must experience this wonderfully crafted hideaway in order to fully appreciate it. Beneath the tree's spreading canopy one can relax comfortably on generous cushions that serve also as dining seats, or spend time in the "lounge" listening to music, or retire to comfortable sleeping quarters that come complete with running water, showers, and functional toilets (solar panels to heat the water, obtained from a well, are planned). There is a kitchen tent where sumptuous meals are prepared, and an area for an open fire that just begs a party. I'm convinced that the stars are brighter here than from anywhere else on earth. We were enchanted by our experiences here; the memories will last a lifetime, and beseech yet another return trip - to Mobarek and his gracious family, to Takojt, to the beautiful red dunes in the desert.