Friday, February 12, 2016

Amazing! Awesome! Oh My God!!

Queens of the desert.
In 2014, when my son and his girlfriend visited Morocco, he posted a photo on Facebook of the two of them in the Sahara Desert riding on camels. This image was an inspiration to me. I knew I wanted to do that someday. My desire turned to reality on the last Monday of January.
The steps of the patio of the Yasmina Hotel Merzouga lead to the sands of the desert
Said prepares our camels.
Morocco Explored, our tour company, made all the arrangements, working alongside the staff at the Yasmina Hotel Merzouga. When we arrived there, in the south east corner of the country, a team of camels was awaiting us, as well as our young camel driver, Said. Earlier that day, we had shopped for proper desert headwear in Tinghir, so, at least, we looked the part of camel trekkers. We needed only to walk a few meters and we were in the desert. With Said's guidance, we mounted our camels–I dubbed mine Bob Dylan–and off we went.
Regan was the first one aboard. Can she look any happier?
My camel, Bob Dylan, and me.
Our camel trek was scheduled for the late afternoon. At that time of day, the light is at its best and the shadows are dramatic. Words fail me as I try to describe the landscape, with its many ripples and shades. The Sahara Desert is rightly called an ocean of sand, its vastness awe-inspiring. The contrast with the blue sky only adds to its stark beauty.

More shadows
I found the experience of traveling in a small caravan across the desert peaceful and yet exciting at the same time. I kept wanting to pinch myself! We could feel the rocking of the camel's gait, but we could hear nothing but the occasional snort. It is very quiet in the Sahara–usually.
Said walked while we rode
Unfortunately, that peace was disturbed by a group of SUVs barrelling over the dunes in the distance. The droning of their engines was unwelcome, but we decided to shut it out and focus on our own slow journey.
Cars in the desert - boo.
It took us about ninety minutes to reach our destination, a campsite belonging to the hotel some two or three kilometres from our starting point. It sits on the big dunes in the north of Erg Chebbi, the most beautiful part of the Sahara. Said helped us dismount from our camels and then led them off while we were advised to climb up a large sand dune to take in the sunset behind us.
Said leads our camels to our camp.
I join Sue and Regan for a Saharan sunset photo–unreal.
Saharan sunset.
Three Woburn retirees in the light of the sunset - who'd a thunk it??
We made our way to our camp on foot, a short walk away, not knowing what to expect. When we signed on, we  knew we would be spending the night in the desert in January and had been assured that we would not die of exposure.
Part of our camp
Our camp consisted of eight large tents in a circle. These were study structures with straw walls and thick mattresses on the ground for comfort while sleeping. Nearby, a box of warm blankets was available for us. Said suggested we take two or three each–it would be a chilly night.
Queens of the desert at our doorways.
My bed–with two blankets. I could have used a third.
One of the tents was used for cooking, while another served as a dining room. Very close by, there was a pathway leading to two flush toilets. It was lit up all night by a couple of lightbulbs. This was desert camping for tourists and it suited me fine. While we were settling in, Said brewed and served us some mint tea while a local Berber man, the cook, prepared Tagine for us.
Mint tea in the desert, with olives and almonds.
Tagine at dinner.
In the middle of our compound were two tables and thin mats for seating. As the light faded, Said lit a fire to keep us warm and to draw us into the circle. Then he pulled out a set of drums and played them for us while he sang. We sang for him too–"Alice the Camel", worked cooperatively to solve a problem he challenged us with, and invited him to join us in a card game. We really liked Said. He was a big part of the joy of our desert experience.
Our desert campfire

Said entertains us.
Shortly after nine, having studied the stars and a full moon above us for a time, we retired for the night, and tried to keep warm. None of us slept very well, but that did not matter at all.
Saharan sunrise
Before dawn, Said woke us for our journey back to the hotel. Our camels were waiting for us. From our saddles, we witnessed the sunrise over the desert, another glorious sight.
Sunrise silhouettes
Said was our photographer much of the time during the trek. He knew what angles to find, and how to maximize the light. As he took our pictures, he would imitate other North Americans who had taken this journey with him. He knew all the right words: "amazing", "awesome" "Oh my God". Very funny.
Long shadows.
One last photo of Bob Dylan and me.
In due course, we arrived back at the hotel. We said goodbye to Said and our camels, before we headed to the showers and afterwards, enjoyed breakfast.
Goodbye camels, goodbye Sahara
Our time in the Sahara constituted a mere 16 hours or so, but it was the highlight of our week. Sure we were tired from lack of sleep and sore from camel riding, but we had done something we had never imagined doing a few years ago. It was one of the best experiences of my life!


  1. I love this post! Thanks for sharing Mary!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Glad you liked it. It was fun to remember.