Sahara Desert

I got to ride a camel.

This past weekend we went to the Sahara Desert. We left Friday, driving Southwest. As we drove, the scenery changed more and more. The colors of the countryside were tan and rocky one moment, then next green and lush.

We spent the night at a hotel in Midelt, but before arriving there we stopped in a little forest along the way. The forest is known for its wild monkeys, which we got to see and feed.

(Pictures coming later this week when I have access to a SD card reader)

They accustomed to people and expected food when we approached, so they weren’t scared at all. If you held out a peanut they would take it from you, then sit there and eat it, just looking around. Some of them would lean out of trees to take the peanuts. When my friend Kevin knelt down to feed a smaller one, it crawled right onto his lap.

(Pictures coming later this week when I have access to a SD card reader)

The next morning we continued on. We stopped in a town called Rissani, and bought headscarves for the desert. We looked super touristy, but it had to be done.

We switched from our bus to 4x4s and continued towards Merzouga. As we drove there, the landscapes became more and more rocky and sparse. The amount of people I saw dwindled as well. We stopped briefly at an oasis, which in contrast to the land around it was very green and cool. I got to pet a desert fox too, which a local kid had caught.

(Pictures coming later this week when I have access to a SD card reader)

Somewhere around that point the roads just disappeared. There were tracks of previous cars leading in certain directions, but no markers and no pavement. Our group had three 4x4s, and they each weaved around in their own direction at their own speed, bouncing over the landscape.

We stopped on the very edge of the desert, and I got to see camels (from afar)! They’re a lot bigger then I had imagined. We had some tea, then prepared for the next part of the trip. We left most of our bags, just bringing backpacks with a change of clothes. To the camels!

We would be spending the night in the desert, and taking camels to get to our camp. All our group’s camels were tied together in a train, and led by a guide. Getting up on the camels was rocky, and tilted me back and forth as they stood. Once up though, it was pretty comfortable. The camels had saddles which made them easier to ride, and attach bags to.

Getting to the camp, we entered the real desert. There was golden sand everywhere. No more rocks or dust, just sand. The sun was going down as we rode, but clouds obscured the sunset.

We reached camp just before it got dark. As comfortable as the camels were, it was nice to get off and walk around on my own two legs. Our group had some tea, dropped our bags, and looked around for the largest sand dune to climb.

The dunes looked big from a distance, but it wasn’t until you were halfway up that you realized just how big they were. And steep. Our group struggled up the dune we had chosen, and eventually all 15 of us made it up. It took a good 30 minutes and it was night by the time we reached the top. Way down below we could see light from our camp, but other than that it was pretty dark. We lay back and watched the stars for a bit, catching our breath.

We soon tumbled back down for dinner, which was chicken tagine. Yum! For dessert we had watermelon, which is fantastic here. Afterwards we relaxed, some of us journaling, some falling asleep, and others singing and playing drums around a fire with the Slovenians that we were sharing the camp with.

For sleeping, we were given two options. In the camel-hair tents, which were similar to the one at Qalam, but closed and reinforced with a bamboo-like wood, or we could sleep outside under the stars. It was still warm, so we all opted for outside. We had packed for a cooler night, but it didn’t seem like we’d need it because it was so nice out. I stuck my hand into the sand and it was warm underneath from all the sun the sand had soaked in during the day. We pulled mats out and watched the stars for a while. There were so many, and all crystal clear. We also noticed flashes in the distance. It lit up the sky and I thought it was heat lightning. It wasn’t close, so we drifted off.

Around 1:30 in the morning the next day, we discovered it was not heat lightning, but real lightning, and it had brought its friends thunder and rain with it. We all rushed to get everything into the tents as the wind picked up and began to throw sand around. After scrambling in and out a few times to make sure nothing was left outside we double checked to make sure everyone was counted for then headed back to sleep, a little soggier and sandier.

We were up again at 5 to head out. We had hoped to catch the sunrise as we rode, but it was obscured by clouds. When we reached the edge of the desert we showered, ate, then began the trip home.

Two bucket list items and a great weekend complete!

Jack Struck

Student in our nation's capital, studying International Relations with a focus on the Middle East. Web designer, runner, reader, and leader.

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