Travel

Moroccan Sahara Night

I love to watch the sky
Smiling at the stars
Laying on the ground
Gentle is the breeze
Wish it never cease
Soothing my mind
Makes me wanna shout
Sahara night
– F. R. David (Sahara Nights)
This song played in my iPod one day and it brought back memories of my Moroccan Sahara adventure with my friend Antik. We heard that Zagora is not the best place to sample Sahara Desert from Morocco but that was closest to Marrakech so we just went ahead.
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Antik and I woke up early to check-out from our Riad. It was still a bit dark when we walked to the meeting point with only our daypacks. The group is comprised of Europeans. We were the only Asians.
We had a quick break before we started with the Atlas Mountain Tichka Pass which is definitely not for the faint-hearted. It was hours of arduous and winding journey that caused motion sickness for some. You have been warned.
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At the peak of the Tichka Pass, we made a brief respite from sitting and the motion-sickness to take in the view of the zigzag roads we traversed.
When the Tichka Pass ordeal was over, we reached the city of Ouarzazate where we stopped for lunch. Right beside the restaurant is the Ouarzazate Film Studios and across is Kasbah Taourirt. There are also a few known hotel brands in the area.
Then off we went – after a long wait for our tourmates who did not honor the time limit (we paid a price, you’ll find out how later). Now the roads are much more friendly and calm – no more twists and turns, thank God! It was getting late and our driver was trying to reach Zagora before sunset which did not happen 😦 We had a few more stops – sunset viewing (which should have been enjoyed while on the way to the camp), last-minute shopping for camping necessities and a final decent toilet break 🙂 Then finally, after a very long day of travel, we arrived.

The Camel Safari

Everybody was so excited! After choosing our own camels and photo ops, we started our camel trek.
It was funny and scary at the same time riding the camel when it rises. It feels like you will fall off. The first few minutes, we were giggling and excited. But after a while it hurts that we just want to get off the camel and walk. It would have been a good diversion if it was not yet dark and we can still enjoy the scenery – the mountain behind us and the dates plantation along the way.
After an hour of camel ride, finally it’s Hello, Camp!

The Sahara Night

We were immediately led to the dining tent with low tables and bed matresses to sit on. We found our spot and sat quietly as everyone was tired. The camel caretakers doubled as chefs and waiters, serving chicken tagine, bread and my favorite Moroccan mint tea.
After dinner, the camel caretakers “transformed” to their third identity – entertainers! They made a bonfire and we gathered around it. Singing (to percussion rhythm which sounded more like chanting) and dancing followed. It was just so cold and we were just so tired that the audience were passive.

If there was one thing lovely that night, it was the skies… The sky was so clear and there were lots of stars. Antik said we saw the Milky Way there (I can’t remember though).

The sleeping tents are similar to the dining tent except that it only had one lamp which was put out before we went to bed. Mattresses and blankets were provided which really did nothing to shield us from the bitter cold.
The following day everyone woke up early, if anybody ever slept at all. We appreciated the surroundings better that morning. We saw the Saharan sand and dunes, the mountains surrounding it and the rising sun. Breakfast was served on top of a dune 🙂 There was no bathing. The desert was the toilet. Find your own spot 🙂After a while we were ushered back to our camels and made our way back to our van for a trip back to Marrakech – but not without a visit to Ait Benhaddou, a World Heritage site and a popular location for movie shoots.

The Experience

True to the reviews, Zagora is not the best place to experience Sahara. First, we did not go very isolated from “civilization” that we can see few electric lights not very, very far.Notwithstanding, the whole experience is something Antik and I will always remember and look back on. Amidst all the “sufferings” we had to endure, this is one trip we ironically enjoyed. The journey provided us a glimpse of the primitive life of the Tuaregs. It was not easy. And we can’t help but be thankful for having a home that protects us from extreme heat and cold and a warm bed to enjoy a good night sleep, among other things 🙂 What about you? Are you open to this experience?

Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time.

– John Muir
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