This past weekend, I got to check something major of my Life List… Riding Camels in the Sahara Desert.
The trip to Merzouga has been on my radar since the instant I opened an ISA Morocco pamphlet around a year ago.
Unfortunately, I have been sick for the last week now. I made the last-minute decision to actually go on this excursion because I had been laying in bed the previous three days unable to do anything. I didn’t think I would feel well enough to go, (which I really shouldn’t have), but I couldn’t miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Our group left early Friday morning, seeing as it takes ten hours to get from Meknes to Merzouga. Merzouga is a small Berber village about 30 miles from border of Algeria, with its main source of income coming from tourists looking to camel trek. We arrived at night in pitch black, so I didn’t get to see the surrounding sand dunes until I woke up early on Saturday. Nevertheless, we spent the night meeting up with Paris ISA, enjoying traditional Berber music, and dancing in the large dinner tent set up at camp.
After dinner and dancing, my friend Hannah and I decided to explore the dunes at night. We ran in the pitch black across the top of the cold sand dunes, laughing, falling (a lot), and rolling around the sand. After our fill of running and playing in the dunes, we found a larger dune out-of-the-way of the camp, laid down on top of it, and stared up at the sky. You can see the entire Milky Way from the Sahara… the stars have never been so bright and beautiful.
Also, our sleeping arrangements we’re amazing. Permanent tent pods are set up in a huge square, with the inside having rows of small mattress pads topped with thick blankets. It was comfortable and had the authentic feel of sleeping under the stars. I fell asleep instantly, trying to imagine what the dunes would look like in the day time.
I woke up early on Saturday morning to the sound of kids laughing outside the tent. It was freezing out, so I put on an extra layer of clothing, pulled away the blanket that was the door to our tent, and saw the most beautiful colors of blue sky, red sand, and local children playing on the dunes. An image that will forever be burned into my memory.
After staring at my surroundings in amazement – I went back in the tent, got dressed, and decided to buy a traditional Berber scarf to keep my hair (and sand) out of my face for the rest of the day. My roommate Sarah and I each bought one in blue for 50 Dirhams ($6), and then had our heads wrapped by the Berber man who sold it to us.
Following this was breakfast, accompanied by some more playtime in the sand!
Which was soon followed by our first camel sighting!
After this, our group loaded up into 4X4’s and spent the next few hours driving around in the dunes. For a while we even got to hang out the side windows while twisting in and out of the sand dunes. This was living.
At one point, we were driving close enough to see the Algerian border.
We stopped for a quick picture break in the middle of nowhere. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
I highly recommend going to the Sahara in Novemeber. It was warm enough in the day to wear short sleeves, but cool enough to where I never felt dehydrated or as if I was melting from the sun. There was always a slight breeze – it made for a really pleasant weekend.
After this… it was camel time!
This was definitely the coolest experience I have had in Morocco so far.
The memories and stories I gained are some that I will be telling people for the rest of my life. I know I’ve said it before about other cities I’ve visited, but if you’re in Morocco… go to the Sahara desert. You absolutely won’t regret it.