Coincident observations made over the Moroccan desert during the Sahara mineral dust experiment (SAMUM) 2006 field campaign are used both to validate aerosol amount and type retrieved from multi-angle imaging spectroradiometer (MISR) observations, and to place the suborbital aerosol measurements into the satellite's larger regional context. On three moderately dusty days during which coincident observations were made, MISR mid-visible aerosol optical thickness (AOT) agrees with field measurements point-by-point to within 0.05-0.1. This is about as well as can be expected given spatial sampling differences; the space-based observations capture AOT trends and variability over an extended region. The field data also validate MISR's ability to distinguish and to map aerosol air masses, from the combination of retrieved constraints on particle size, shape and single-scattering albedo. For the three study days, the satellite observations (1) highlight regional gradients in the mix of dust and background spherical particles, (2) identify a dust plume most likely part of a density flow and (3) show an aerosol air mass containing a higher proportion of small, spherical particles than the surroundings, that appears to be aerosol pollution transported from several thousand kilometres away.