During my sunrise hike over the sand dunes in the Sahara Desert, I was approached by three adorable nomad girls selling trinkets. They spoke absolutely no English, but luckily, my guide was with me and able to translate for us. I was able to find out that they are between the ages of 8 and 9 and only one of the girls attends school (she lives in the city of Merzouga with her mother but visits her father in the desert on the weekends). I was also lucky enough to visit with and interview the women of a nomad family during my camping trip. You can read the interview here. I highly recommend adding a visit to Morocco and the Sahara Desert to your bucket list! You won’t be disappointed.
How can I adequately describe the Sahara Desert? Awe-inspiring. Magnificent. Beautiful. Serene. All of those adjectives and more. During our 8 day trip thru Morocco, we decided to camp out overnight in the Sahara. Upon arriving to the outskirts of the desert, we switch vehicles from a van to a 4×4 and visit the village of visit Khamlia, a village founded by freed slaves known as the Gnawi brotherhoods who play spiritual music. As we entered the tent, we were given mint tea then treated to a performance which was really nice! During the performance, they asked us to form a circle and dance…it sort of turned into the Soul Train line. It was LOADS of fun!!!
After the performance, we take a 4×4 into the Erg Chebbi dunes of the Sahara Desert to watch the sunset and spend the night in a deluxe Bedouin-style tent (because, um we aren’t really “roughing it” kind of girls). The tent had 2 twin beds (complete with mattresses on frames), bathroom (which included a shower) and sitting room.
After we get settled, we head over to the “dining tent” which was gorgeous. We were the only people in camp that night so it was kind of quiet but we ended up having a lot of fun. After a delicious dinner and great conversation with our guide, Tata, and driver, Haji, we walk over to an area set up with pillows, rugs, a small table, lanterns and music equipment (mostly various types of percussion instruments). Tata and the other guys working at the camp performed traditional songs and invited us to play instruments with them (and I am not ashamed to say that I channeled my inner Sheila E on the bongos…until they asked if I’d just like to clap instead…maybe it was too much, too soon and they weren’t ready for the funk I was bringing?).
I suggest EVERYBODY visit the Sahara. At night, it was so quiet you can hear a pin drop. There were NO CRICKETS!!! I’m so used to hearing them that it was a jolt to my system to be immersed in quiet and complete darkness. Once the lanterns are extinguished, you only have the moon & stars. Tata and I took a late night hike thru the sand dunes so I could take it all in. It’s hard to describe the experience…like you truly disconnected from the world (because you also can’t get cellular service). I don’t remember the last time I felt so relaxed and stress-free!
Once I got back to the tent, my Mom was ready to turn in. But she was having reservations about the tent because she had expected there would be a door. Yeah, it’s a deluxe tent…but it is still a tent…in the Sahara. I don’t know if she thought we were staying at the Ritz Carlton – Sahara or what. Now, I had prepared myself for the fact that I would encounter a bug or 2. I already had my Avon Skin So Soft and Off (courtesy of my Mom). She was okay until she thought she saw a bat. I didn’t actually see it but she claims she did and after that, it was a wrap. She came up with the game plan that we’d just keep the lights on in the tent to keep the bats away…but then the camp operators had the nerve to shut the power off at night (they said it is to conserve energy). So my Mom couldn’t keep the lights and now feared that bats would swoop in, turn into Dracula, and bite us. What would happen if we turned into vampires? We didn’t have any True Blood in our emergency preparedness kit (there wasn’t enough space with all the toilet paper).
Around 1am, I startled awake by my Mom screaming about scorpions. She’s got her flashlight on and pointed towards her face like it’s the Moroccan Blair Witch Project. I’m trying to figure out what is going on. I mean, I know she isn’t serious. I must be dreaming this. Did my mint tea have another type of herb in it? I’m confused. At this point, she has moved into my twin bed and made the proclamation that she will NEVER sleep in that bed again because there is a scorpion the size of a “cow” in it. But, before I could find Bessie the Scorpion and lead her out of the tent, my Mom wanted me to see if her arm was swelling. Sigh. After confirming that there was no swelling, I check the bed and can’t find the Velociraptor-sized scorpion. I did see a big cockroach though. Lest you think we are going to sleep peacefully together in a small twin bed, I’ve got news for you…we are not. Labor Layaway requires counseling sessions as well (wait, you don’t know what Labor Layaway is? well, you need to read my post Travelin’ Mr./Mrs. Daisy to find out). And, my Mom had to question why there was no actual door on the tent. You read that right. And, I’m sure that will go into the survey feedback she is working on right now. See, as you get older, things don’t have to make sense. A tent in the Sahara to young people means just that. But to older people? It means a cottage with a fireplace, butler and an exterminator on speed dial.
After we survive the night, we wake up around 5:30am to hike the sand dunes and watch the sunrise…and it is AMAZING! We see various vegetation and end up meeting 3 girls from a nomadic Berber tribe. I cover our time spent them and a nomadic family in my previous blog post, Life of a Nomad.
Once we complete our morning hike, we take showers, get dressed and head off to breakfast before going on our camel ride thru the desert. And I have to say that the camel ride was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Unlike the camels in Egypt, ours didn’t stink (so yay for that!), they weren’t temperamental and it was a very smooth journey. The nomad that owns the camels was very nice, spoke limited English and provided us with the experience of a lifetime!
After our camel ride was complete, we went 4-wheeling thru the sand dunes. THIS WAS AWESOME!!! I felt like a little kid! Speeding up and down hills, making crazy turns, trying not to get stuck in sand…what more can you ask for? But, all good things must come to an end. Once we finished playing in the sand, we headed back to the city, said good-bye to our camp operators and guide, then headed to Ouarzazate.