Morocco’s Slice of Sahara

Posted on: August 2nd, 2012 by Christopher Benson

Last weekend was an arduous journey to reach the little town of Merzouga near the dune sea named Erg Chebbi.  The first leg of our journey was a train ride to Meknes (which took two extra hours because our train caught fire. Classic Morocco), followed by a nine-hour bus ride.  We didn’t have a hotel Friday or Sunday night—we just slept on the bus.

As soon as we reached the town I picked out a massive sand dune to climb.  What I thought would be a forty minute or so trip took over two hours and I realized all my perceptions of distance, size, and even angles were pretty unreliable looking at pure sand.  Ramadan began Saturday so if the Saharan heat didn’t keep people inside their inability to drink water did and I was lucky to find a store open to buy some life-giving water, though I had to haul it back to the hotel before drinking any so as not to offend anyone fasting.

We set out on our camels in the evening for a two-hour ride to our camp.  Camels are like horses except raised an extra foot or so and with a totally unmanageable sway, forcing me to hold on or fall off.  The camp was behind another massive sand dune to protect it from the wind, and there we climbed the nearby dunes and chatted with our guides before dinner.  We couldn’t practice our Arabic with them because they were Berbers (a technically politically incorrect term, but you can tell THEM that) and didn’t speak even the Moroccan dialect.  Luckily after working in the tourism industry for only a few years they’d picked up a considerable amount of English.

Our guides recalled their visits to cities with distaste, and often repeated the phrase “the desert is my dream”.  In the day, sunlight makes the landscape of flawless dunes seem a distortion of reality, and at night the stars are memorizing.  At four thirty the next morning my bud Brandon and I hoofed it up to the top of the massive dune adjacent to our camp.  We reached the top after about half an hour with just enough time for a rest before sunrise.  It was insane.  I don’t know if the desert is unspeakably beautiful, or it was just new to me.  All I can say is “the desert is my dream”.

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