Wind, Sand, & Stars

Standard

In the last few years, I’ve discovered that the places dearest to my heart are the frontiers, the places that exist on the very edge of civilization, reminding you that man is just one of Mother Nature’s children (and by no means her favourite!). Antarctica and Churchill are examples of this, and now Merzouga can be added to the list. Although the snow is replaced by sand, and the penguins and polar bears exchanged for camels, there is still the exhilarating peace and quiet of an untouched landscape. And, looking at the map and seeing all the roads end like loose threads, one has to ask, “What’s past that?”

Answering this question, at least somewhat, was the main attraction of our trek into the heart of Morocco. The sun was already low in the sky when Sara and I started fumbling with our aforementioned headscarves. Reasonably proud of our turban skills, we walked out behind the riad where our local guides (with far more skillfully-wound turbans) were prepping in the stable. We had seen this stable the previous day – an open-air adobe enclosure where camels happily munched on heaps of hay – but we had kept a respectful distance. That was about to change.

CIMG0184

Camels are fascinating creatures. Judging from their bizarrely long lips and spindly legs that seem to bend every direction except the one you’d expect, one would think they would be very awkward animals. Somehow, however, they manage to be incredibly graceful, hoisting their rider effortlessly into the air and trudging through seas of sand without sinking. We mounted our steeds and ambled single-file (you know, to hide our numbers) into the dunes of Erg Chebbi, beyond where any road could physically be built.

image
image
image
image
image

It only took a few minutes for the riad and the last of the vegetation to disappear completely. After another half-hour, we stopped to appreciate the sun as it set magnificently into the ‘sand sea,’ as it is known in Arabic.

Note our camel-back… on a camel’s back!!
image
image
image
image
image

We rode on as stars began appear in the dusky sky, mesmerized by this foreign planet we had stumbled upon. Reaching the top of a particularly high dune we were able to see, down in the ‘valley,’ two rows of tents reminiscent of the ones we had seen nomadic Berber families living in. These were our homes for the night.

image

It’s easy to understand why carpets are so emblematic of this part of the world: they are heavy enough to not blow away at night, they somehow scrape sand off your feet without then transferring it to the next person’s feet, and you can build HOUSES with them!
image

We enjoyed yet another delicious tagine, the listened to our guides jam with some traditional Berber instruments for a while. Somehow I ended up with the drums, which was fun, but fortunately their requests for me to sing were short-lived.
image
image

Once the jam session had petered out, Sara and I scaled the next dune for one of the most incredible shooting star shows of our lives. We’ve enjoyed many a clear night with beautiful stars, but we’re also used to incessantly shivering at the same time. Laying in the warm sand long enough to actually see certain stars set and new stars rise was truly unbelievable.

The next day started at 5:30 for a few reasons: One, contrary to popular belief, desert nights are actually blisteringly hot, and we were more than ready to abandon any thoughts of sleeping in our carpet-sauna. Two, because of said heat, it’s best to get an early start to the day before the sun gets too high. And three, and most importantly, it’s not everyday you get to see the sunrise over the Saharan dunes.

image

CIMG0153

After being thoroughly awe-inspired (and only singing the Lion King song once), we re-mounted our camels and set off back to Merzouga, retying our turbans every few minutes as various orifices filled with sand (the wind had picked up significantly overnight). Truly the most incredible climax for an unforgettable trip.

image
image

Advertisements

9 responses »

  1. Amazing! Christmas gift idea – the picture of the silhouettes of the camels trekking across the desert – it would look great on the wall beside the Antarctica penguins!

    Like

  2. Pingback: Happy Birthday, Castro | saratreetravels

Leave a comment! No, seriously, WE LOVE COMMENTS. All kinds of comments! Preferably really long, witty ones. But short little guys are good too! YAYYYYY COMMENTS!! Please don't be the person who reads this and then casually mentions a month later that they read it. LEAVE A COMMENT!! :)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s