When you think of the Sahara Desert, is this what you think of?
You think of sand, camels, vast emptiness, people wandering around absolutely lost, muttering crazy nonsense, dying of thirst, and not much else. Well, besides the sand and camels, you would be completely wrong! To be fair, the above picture was not taken IN the Sahara, but it was taken en-route.
It was a 3 day, 2 night adventure that we went on, which only cost about $150ish each. There were 3 Japanese girls doing the trek with us. Driving around in a little minivan, weaving through the roads going up and down mountains was both beautiful and motion sickness inducing (which I suffer extremely from). Thankfully, I popped 15,000 motion sickness pills before the trek, so I was feeling okay.
Our first stop was atop the mountain. We get out of the minivan and are instantly bombarded by children trying to sell us things. Once you start traveling a lot, you learn to ignore them and politely say “no, merci.” (Moroccan people’s second language is French.) We walk across the road and feast our eyes on that magnificent view. Seriously breath taking.
Kasbah of Aït Benhaddou
After we take in all the greatness that is being on top of a mountain, we arrive to this UNESCO World Heritage Site, where only 8 families still reside. Not that I overly gave a shit, but there have been quite a few movies shot at this location. The Mummy, Gladiator, Alexander, and others. Oh, and Game of Thrones.
When you see the outside of buildings, they completely blend into the scenery around them. Orange-y, burnt red clay. But when you go inside the buildings, the colours pop out at you as if you immediately dropped acid before entering.
On the left is a store in which I needed to own every single item that was displayed. On the right, we were invited into a man’s studio where he and his wife made true Moroccan rugs by hand. Each rug takes 6 months to make. Every colour you see is pulled from a different plant. He told us each rug sells for 134 dirham, which is $40CAD. I wanted to puke. These gorgeous handmade rugs could be sold for so much more. If we were going home immediately after this trip, I would of bought quite a few.
The tea pot you see to his left is Berber Whiskey aka Moroccan tea. Because Muslims do not drink alcohol, they call their tea ‘whiskey’ and think it’s hilarious, which it totally is. If you have never had Moroccan green tea, go out to the store and buy some. It obviously won’t be as good as authentic Moroccan tea, but Jesus Murphy, it is heaven.
Finally, we left what little civilization we had run into and started to notice there were less trees, less vegetation, and more sand. Driving a minivan into the beginnings of the Sahara Desert was kind of hilarious. It was so rough on the van. Clearly a terrain in which camels were needed. There would be the odd palm tree growing out of the sand, but for the longest time, we saw nothing.
We finally came upon a house. We learned right away that it was our guides house. “So, you just….live…in the Sahara Desert….” I asked our Bob Marley loving guide. “Oh yes, you would be shocked to learn how many families lived deep in the Sahara.”
We finally saw our camels.
On the cusp of the desert.
Have you ever ridden a camel? We were told by our guide that it is incredibly uncomfortable and that we should get ourselves mentally prepared for the 45 minute trek into the Sahara. To this day, I still don’t know how to mentally prepare myself to ride a camel. For the first 10 minutes on the camel, both Graeme and I thought this is a breeze, baby. When we dismounted the camel however, everyone in the group fell to the ground in a convulsing manor. None of us skanks could close our legs.
But the ride to our little hideaway in the desert was definitely beyond stunning.
The overwhelmingly basic sounds surrounding us were deafening. What you could hear was the impossibly soft top layer of sand whirling around, sounding like gentle static which gives you that orgasmic feeling throughout your entire body. The sound of our guide softly humming Could You Be Loved – Bob Marley. And for some reason, the extremely tall sand dune skyline and the massive open sky above us were louder than I can describe. Looking at everything around us, everything looked heavy. The sand, the sky, and the sun. It felt like the three of them had banded together to make us feel incredibly small. For how much vastness there was, it was almost bordering on suffocating.
It was powerful.
About every 5 minutes as the sun was setting, the sand and sky changed shades.
590ft sand dunes.
Once we got feeling back into our lower bodies, we all raced to the top of one of the smaller sand dunes which was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done. Guys, there’s a lot of sand. And sand is stronger than me. And you. Even Graeme, who is an athlete, wanted to puke when he got to the top.
After we decided we weren’t going to die, we gazed upwards and were immediately swallowed by the sky. There wasn’t a cloud in sight. The stars, oh my god, the stars. The 5 of us sat in silence and took it all in. Then obviously pencil rolled down the dune.
A common problem.
Me: Um. There’s a cat.
Guide: There are lots of cats in the Sahara Desert.
Me: Yeah, I can’t wrap my head around that so I’m going to pretend he’s a mirage cat.
Also, possibly a demon.
Being in the Sahara Desert, you would think for dinner they would serve you sandwiches or y’know, sand. But no. This was one of the best meals I have EVER had, and I’m not exaggerating. Our guide cooked us up the most delicious tagine of my life. Morocco was easily my #1 spot for food on our trip overseas. I cannot explain the tastiness of their food. Probably because they have a bajillion spices to use.
Time for song, drums, and fire.
Naturally, Bob Marley was a theme.
Because we had to be up at 5am to catch the most beautiful sunrise I have ever witnessed, we were in bed pretty damn early. Not to mention, this entire 2 day adventure was beyond exhausting. Side note: During the day, the sun was warm, but not blazing hot. At night, it was FREEZING.
Tired. So tired. But up on the camels we went. As the sun was slowly coming up, the extremely tall sand dunes were blocking most of it’s gaze, but the sun beams that could not be tamed made the sand colour dance some insane colours. Again, it felt like we were tripping balls.
We stopped at the top of a smaller sand dune, dismounted from the painful camels, and waited for the sun to appear. Instead of bursting into The Circle of Life, which I had to do everything in my power not to do, we all stood in silence, not moving. It felt like the sun started moving faster. Seriously, if you remember The Circle of Life opening sequence when the huge sun rapidly started to rise, THIS WAS IT. I WAS LITERALLY LION KINGING.
Beyond gorgeous. Gorgeous is too ugly of a word to describe it.
Naaaaaaaaaants een-vwen-yaaaaaaa ma-ba-gee-chi-ba-va!
It’s….the…..circle! The circle of liiiiiiiiiiife!
I’ve seen the gorgeous, palm tree filled islands of Hawaii. I’ve been to the lushness of Plitvice Lakes. I’ve traveled through the stunning Austrian mountains. I’ve been so lucky to see such beautiful natural, non-man made places, but The Sahara Desert miiiiight take the cake. It is Mother Nature’s Sandbox and she ain’t getting rid of it any time soon.
My camel, named Jimi Hendrix, photobombing our sand angels.