The Stunning Sahara

The Stunning Sahara

A Story by SmileTravelLive

So finally, the stunning Sahara adventure was to begin. On our way to the bus, my new Brazilian friend and I began getting to know each other. We were both on a similar adventure, one-way tickets everywhere we went, without too much thought of what life will bring in the future. It was currently 07:00 in the morning and as soon as we jumped on our bus, we fell asleep, still tired from our previous late night.


When I woke up, we had arrived at our first food stop. I checked my new €4 Calvin Klein wristwatch to see that it was still 10:00 in the morning. As I got out of the bus, all I could see was this random restaurant surrounded by nothing but mountains upon mountains. It was cloudy with a cool chill in the air. We all soon found out from our bus driver that we were now in the amazing Atlas mountain range of Morocco.


My new friend and I ordered some mint tea and went straight up to the rooftop of this restaurant. As I looked around, I had a 360-degree view of the strangest coloured mountains that I had ever seen. The earthy parts of the mountains, where flora did not grow, were a deep burgundy colour. This was very dissimilar to the yellowish clay or silver earth and rock that are native in many Australian mountain ranges. This burgundy scheme spread across majority of the mountainsides and valleys, as far as the eye could see.

Getting back on the bus, I had some bread and tuna cans that I packed in my bag for snacking on this Sahara trip. Not too far from our bus, I saw a dog. It was a female mother, looking fairly frail in stature, with a sad yet innocent look in her eyes.


Without hesitation, I stopped eating my loaf of bread, tore it into smaller pieces and placed it on the ground near her. I assumed she was going to quickly consume this loaf I had given, yet she didn’t. Amazingly, she started gathering these pieces and collecting them together in her mouth. I was astonished at this behaviour but soon after ascertained that she was trying to take the food to her puppies nearby. This was a beautiful act to witness.


After witnessing this, we all hopped back on the bus. There was a group of 9 of us younger people at the back of the bus �" a couple from the U.K, two girls from Switzerland, three guys from Morocco itself, my Brazilian friend and myself. We spent most of our bus rides developing our friendship and getting to know one another.


Our second stop was a famous Kasbah, a fortress where the leader of the time lived and ruled. This particular Kasbah has been transformed into a movie set, where films such as Gladiator have been shot. Stepping out of the bus, the surrounding landscape looked scorched and extremely hot.

We seemed minuscule, walking through this Kasbah with our tour guide. Once we were atop the main Kasbah lookout, the horizon was visible. This was an excellent location for a fortress lookout, with many miles visible to the naked eye, in all directions. Surveying the fortress from above, all the surrounding buildings seemed like monolithic sandcastles.


After walking around this fortress for an hour or so, we all went inside one of the mud brick houses for some local presentations. The first presentation consisted of traditional Berber oil paintings. What was amazing about this method of painting was that they used a flame of fire on the oil to accentuate the original colours and give the portrait the finishing look.


I thought the second presentation’s concept was absolutely wonderful. Divorced women from Morocco, particularly from traditional towns, were considered outcasts from their societies. They were not given the same equality as other women in their societies and were regarded as lower class citizens. It’s both shocking and surprising when hearing about the intensities of such unethical acts occurring throughout the world. We in the first world, complain about what seem to be such petty inconveniences, when the less fortunate who suffer a great deal more overseas, strive for simple living day by day. This is both their struggle and their beauty. However, the wider population of the world generally does not know about such injustice.


The beauty of the presentation was creating awareness about a particular organisation that was trying to help. The group provided support to women in such circumstances to find a reliable source of income. However, it was not simply handing out donations in a monetary form. Personally, I believe simply handing out money to less fortunate people does not empower them to help themselves. This organisation provided these women with camel and sheep wool so they could hand weave beautiful traditional Moroccan rugs and carpets.


By doing so, the women had a means of sourcing income for themselves, whilst learning and perfecting a traditional craft. These carpets and rugs would then be sold worldwide and majority of the money would be given back to the women and their families. This was just beautiful to hear about.

After leaving the presentation, we had lunch at the local restaurant. The restaurant was busy, with many different tour groups congregating together for lunch. Sitting down with my friends, I could overhear various different languages meandering through the air. My ears were on edge trying to gauge what languages were what.


The menu had set cuisines and as per usual, the majority of us ordered the mouth watering Moroccan tagine. Soon after ordering, the tagine came out inside its signature clay pot. As soon as the lid was uncovered, the aromatic flavours wafter through the air, teasing us to inhale its smell. After consuming our lunches, we were extremely full and couldn’t move from our chairs for some time.


After getting on the bus, we undertook our final leg of the day, eventually arriving at our first night’s accommodation. Even though there were several other tour groups staying at the same hotel, the location was absolutely serene. It was situated alongside a river with a narrow road separating the two. As your eyes span out further, you ascertain that a vast canyon surrounds the entire area. Standing within this deep orange canyon makes you feel miniature and ant-sized.


After staying in hostels and continuously sharing rooms with people for several months, having a hotel room with only one other person was definitely a welcome change. My Brazilian friend and I crashed on our beds and relaxed for an hour or so, after a long, hot day of walking and sightseeing.


Before we were expected at dinner in the grand hall, my Brazilian friend, our friends from Switzerland and myself, decided to quickly nip off and explore the river across the road. We walked down the bank to the river, took our shoes off and slowly waded into the river.


The sand was soft and engulfed our feet making it hard to balance and continue moving across the river. One of our Swiss friends, in the act of wading, lost balance while on one foot and fell into the river on her back. Immediately, the other three of us went over to help her get out of the river, but we were also laughing hysterically in the process.


Some other members from our tour bus happened to come down to watch our antics and also found the fall quite enjoyable. After we reached the other side, we walked along the dry rocky sandbank.  We eventually came upon a T-junction where what seemed to be two rivers upstream, merged into one downstream, where we began.


The rivers were extremely dry, maybe at 10% of capacity, being in the summer season. The surrounding canyon walls looks gigantic in correlation to the river as it flowed currently. I was picturing how the environment would have looked has the water been at 100% capacity, meandering like a tsunami through the gargantuan canyons. My mind started wandering. I even began picturing the landscape in a Jurassic age, with dinosaurs roaming free through the rivers and canyons.

After checking the time and realising we were due at dinner, we all hopped back across the river, this time without any falls, and went to shower and get ready. When we entered the grand hall, it was indeed grand. The hall could have seated maybe 200 or so individuals, sitting 10 at each table. In the middle of each table was an enormous silver dish of the traditional tagine, wafting its aromatic spices through the air as usual. There were all sorts of Moroccan breads, sauces and pastes alongside mounds of vegetables.


After dinner, we were all stuffed and lay back in our chairs for a while. A few of us grabbed some local Moroccan beers and went to the rooftop balcony. We sat outside amongst a beautiful cool breeze, flowing across the Atlas mountain range.


The next day everyone was very excited in the morning for breakfast as today was finally the day that we would be going into the Sahara dessert. The feeling was surreal and almost felt like a dream. Something I’ve always known about but never thought I’d physically see or experience. We all packed our things, jumped on our bus and off we went…


Late in the afternoon, around 6pm, when the sun still had 1 or 2 hours to go, we arrived in a town. This town was extremely rural, very dry and very sandy. All the houses were made of mud brick. Looking out of the bus windows, we could slowly but surely see glimpses of massive sand dunes that seemed like Mount Vesuvius overlooking Pompeii.


After going through this final town before the Sahara desert, we came to our final bus stop for the day. Whilst everything was getting ready, most of us got changed. Knowing the Sahara camel trek was going to be incredibly sandy, hot and fairly uncomfortable, I chucked on my long sleeve sports compression skins. We all put on our headpieces that wrapped around our heads, necks and faces to prevent sand hindrance. We looked like we were in the movie ‘Aladdin’ or ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.


We were ushered to our camels and told to wait until the camel scouts got us on top of our camels. I was petting and playing with my companion camel, talking to and hugging him. He would make long moaning sounds when I scratched his head and chin. Most of the other people were watching me being friendly with my new companion, with great curiosity.  I was not bothered at all because for me, I was getting on excellently with me new camel friend, whom I later named Kazaam.


My initial attempt of walking alongside the camel behind the Berber scout was swiftly brushed aside as a joke. Hesitantly, I got atop the camel and stood in a line of 6 camels per each Berber scout and off we set. In one hand, I held the reigns and in my other hand I held both my GoPro video camera and my iPhone. During the entire journey, I had great one-way conversation with my new camel friend.

As the journey went on, the sun had slowly begun setting behind the distant sand dunes around us. The sand wasn’t the usual yellow coloured sand I had experienced on beaches, it was deep red in colour. An occasional drift of wind would carry the top layers of sand across the dunes. It was mesmerising,


The camel’s footsteps were very soft. They spread a nice footprint of the red sand. Adjacent to the camel caravan, I could see the shadow of our group that looked amazing with all of us in sync with each other.

The vastness of the Sahara desert was intense. Its sheer size was both eerie and ethereal.  It was exactly like an enormous ocean of red sand. Everywhere I turned it was sand dunes upon sand dunes. The scary part was if you got lost in the desert, all you have around you is sand. It’s a very terrifying feeling.

After an hour or two, the sun had almost set, the temperature was dropping and my bottom was getting sore. Soon enough, in the distance, I could see a group of lights. Surely enough, as we got closer, the lights appeared to be our campsite. There were very large tents, such tents that kings of Egypt in a battlefield would’ve once used.


The camels were taken care of by the Berbers while we put our bags inside the tents. I noticed a gigantic sand dune, just overlooking our campsite. Naturally, I told my friends that we should climb it. Surely enough, a group of about ten of us started our long ascent to the top of the sand dune.

My Brazilian friend and I decided to run up. After about 2 minutes of continual running up the sand dune, we were exhausted. With a final struggle, we managed to reach the top of the dune. Our other friends slowly followed. We had a celebration of high-fives at the top with all our friends. It was quite an accomplishment, having endured the ascent.


When I stood at the summit of the sand dune and looked around, I was in absolute awe. What I saw, what I felt, what I imagined, words will never be able to describe. It was definitely an experience of more than words.


The peace and quite when our entire group of friends were quiet and admiring the view, was absolutely amazing. The myriad of sand dunes wherever the eye could see, was stunning. The Sahara desert was, directly put, an ocean of sand. It was immense and encapsulating. It was scary yet calm, unimaginable yet visible.

The winds would lap at my headscarf and compression wear. It also carried clusters of sand of the sand dunes’ edges. As the sun had set, the air was not hot, not was it cold. It was as if I could feel the wind physically hitting my skin but I could not feel it transitioning to a cold or warm sensation. There was no smell, only a freshness and crispness in the air.


After sitting on top of the dune with our friends for a while, we made our way down. Naturally, my Brazilian friend and I decided to run down the dune. Our other friends also followed suit. Towards the bottom of the dune, most of us ended up falling and rolling down to the bottom.


After our descent, we arrived just in time for dinner and dinner definitely did not disappoint. After a full days travelling through the Sahara’s heat, what could be better than traditional Moroccan tagine for dinner. We sat and lay on rugs outside our tents around small tables, which were mostly taken up by giant bowls of tagine. Without much hesitation, we got stuck into our dinner.


There were local Berber people playing Moroccan music while we ate and relaxed afterwards. After eating so much, it was hard to do anything else apart from lie on the rugs and stare at the stars. It was a very beautiful atmosphere.


Whilst there were nice luxurious tents set up for sleeping, every one at the campsite decided to sleep outside on sheets in the sand. Some friends and I had our mats laid some distance away from the tents and lights. We did this on purpose to have more visibility of the stars above.


Looking up at the Sahara night sky, I had never ever seen so many stars and never so much details of the universe in my life. You could distinctively see the Milky Way galaxy, amongst a myriad of other unknown things the mind can starts to imagine.


I had such a strong sensation of happiness and satisfaction. Traveling, something I passionately love enabled me to see such unimaginable wonders we have around our world.


From the bluest sky, to the reddest sand, to the sharpest sun, to the closest moon, to the brightest stars! Absolutely amazing Morocco.


Open your eyes, open your mind, open your life!

© 2016 SmileTravelLive

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Added on April 6, 2016
Last Updated on April 6, 2016
Tags: Travel, Sahara, Desert, Africa, World, Trip, Blog, Blogger, Wanderlust, Beautiful, Beauty, Amazing, Perfect, Stunning, Love, Memory, Experience




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