Published: June 22nd 2011June 22nd 2011
My overnight trip to the Sahara was very similar to the camping trip in Peru. Obviously, in many ways different since the Sahara (in Arabic means desert) is the extreme to the Amazon, but there were many parallels. The primary parallel being that the guides had to survive us. What seemed extraordinary to us as tourists was merely quotidian for the guides –riding camels and climbing sand dunes in the desert are to Berbers what navigating waterways as streets and catching fish are to Peruvians in the Amazon. I was well taken care of in both places, and appreciated their willingness to recreate in a sheltered environment their means of living with the particular quantity of water.
We rode camels to the oasis, which was most comfortable, with rugs and mattresses and tents, and a full meal, with sliced watermelon and oranges for dessert, served to us on tables. This was less interactive than the camping in Peru, when we attempted to catch our own fish and chop our own tree. We were responsible for our own water in the Sahara, so I brought ten liters (and drank five). In Peru the guides forgot the water, so we drank from
Jennifer appreciates the easy reach of the light switch.
the river with fresh-squeezed lemon juice for flavor. In the Sahara, we brought book bags and water bottles that had to be tied to the camel, some of which then broke and fell to the ground, which the guides then picked up. In Peru, we packed all our bags and bedding on a boat, which had to be unloaded, and covered in the rain. We rode camels in a pack train, nose to butt, and still had some trouble staying on the camel (although that was the camel’s inexperience, not our fault –all we had to do was sit), while in Peru, too, all we had to do was sit on a boat. The guides cooked our meals and readied our camels and entertained us with music at night in the Sahara, as in Peru the guides caught the fish and finished chopping the tree for its fruit, and guided the boat. A Berber ‘village’ with tents was awaiting us, as in Peru the campsite was pre-established. The Saharan animal life I noticed included a couple of birds (one looked like a mockingbird), the camels we rode, a donkey tied to a tree, and a cat. The animal life was
Where we are headed are the sand dunes in the distance, by way of the creatures in the foreground
much more apparent in the Amazon, with monkeys and birds and bugs…
It is humid in the Amazon. It is not humid in the Sahara. Both are hot. Both seemed to significantly cool during the night. Both had a night sky closer to earth than usual, a perfect inversion of daytime with night lighting from stars and the moon, glowing as healthily as the sun. Although large groups of people rarely find a moment’s peace to appreciate the significance of their environment, I fell asleep for a while, lying on the dune long enough to watch the stars fall forward and backward.
The trip to the Sahara was as enjoyable an experience as the Amazon. A group of about thirty students from the school in Fez left Friday at noon and arrived in Erfoud, a village in the far east of Morocco, by 7pm. We stayed in a very high-quality hotel, complete with swimming pools (plural, in the desert) and air-conditioning and hot water showers and a full dinner and breakfast buffet. The following morning, I made a quick tour of a fossil and geology museum, where the marble contained evidence that the Sahara was, in fact, a sea
What I look like on a camel.
before becoming grassland, before becoming desert. I saw some of the most beautiful trilobites. Then I joined the group for another couple of hours’ ride farther east.
Arrived at another hotel in Merzouga, we ate lunch, deposited the majority of our weekend’s supplies, and met our camels for a two-hour ride to the desert oasis (the guides walked). By 8:30pm, we had a quick sip of tea before climbing the sand dune, tall and steep enough to require frequent breaks to catch my breath. Where the sand was soft, I was confident in my step but gained less ground; where the sand was firm, I could take bigger steps but was over-cautious of sliding down the dune. Arrived at the top, the wind was ferocious and full of sand, but the view was amazing. I saw lightening in the storm to the south. The rain it contained was barely enough to sense on our faces. I looked east to see Algeria about 40 kilometers away. The head scarf was perfect for preventing sand in my nose and ears and mouth –I just didn’t wrap my face up soon enough, which is why I still have sand in my orifices.
What a camel looks like while riding a camel.
I bounced down the dune, again cautious of the firm sand. We enjoyed the night air and breeze and the reality of having accomplished a two-hour camel ride into the renowned Sahara before dinner, then again enjoyed our environment until we fell asleep. By 5:30 the next morning, we were awake to watch the sunrise and mount our camels for the return trip, before the sun and the desert made too much heat. With a quick breakfast and a shower, we were out the door of the Merzouga hotel before 10am, and in Fez by 7pm, crossing back through the desert, the scrub land, the canyons and valleys of the Ziz river, and climbing back through the Middle Atlas, where I saw some remaining snow on the tallest mountains while in Midelt. The weather is lovely through that region, cool and dry. Once returned in Fez, I felt the heat again, though not as intense as in the Sahara.
I was warmly welcomed home, where Maman had been working and painting and refreshing couch cushions. I had tea, did some homework, ate dinner, and fell directly to sleep. I appreciated the following morning in Fez for its familiarity,
This is a desert.
the weekend away being just enough to distract me for a while. The memory of the weekend’s adventure remained in the soreness in my toes from gripping sand, and in my back from riding a camel.
There are more photos below