The morning started with a delicious breakfast by an open window with a breeze and no screen and no insects…very nice. Breakfast consisted of a flat pancake that very much resembled a thick tortilla with several jams. There was also a boiled egg, coffee and Morocco’s deliciously sweet orange juice.
We packed up and checked out of the hotel to continue our two and a half hour drive to the desert. The farther along we got the less vegetation we saw and it reminded me of my visit to Death Valley, CA. I told Hicham he would feel right at home in southwestern USA.
We stopped in a Berber village that once belonged to Jews until they left in 1954. This is where the Berber women make their own unique rugs in their own homes. We were taken to a home where we were served hot mint tea and watched a woman card wool for her rug and were shown numerous rugs. One caught my eye and I offered the gentleman €50 for it, but he looked offended and said it took the woman three months to make it! I really didn’t mean to offend him, but I was not willing to go higher as I was worried that it would not fit in my suitcase! We left with no rug.
After riding for awhile we came to a magnificent gorge! Many Moroccoan ladies were in the water with their scarves and long gowns which seemed strange. Several children, who were wearing few clothes splashed and swam carefree in the pools of water. I wondered at what age they go from few clothes to being totally covered.
Curious, I had to put my feet in the water expecting it to be warm, but it was shockingly cold. Hicham parked near the end of the gorge and as I walked to meet him a merchant followed me insisting that I buy some jewelry. I just kept walking and he kept insisting! I was glad when I reached Hicham! Alongside the river were many small, black goats friskily playing in the water.
We left the magnificent gorge and drove through the desert which continued to have less and less vegetation until we reached an oasis where we stopped for lunch. Hisham knew lots of people at every stop and they always seemed happy to see him.
At the oasis we were led into the restaurant and ordered lunch. I had found all Moroccan meals to be plentiful, inexpensive, delicious and always served with lots of bread and olives.
We left the oasis and our next stop was to buy a turban for the camel ride in the desert. This turned into an elaborate affair with the shopkeeper dressing us in decorative gowns, necklaces and headdresses, giving us names (mine was Fatima) and taking our picture. I could tell she was disappointed when I offered her €10 for a magnet and one piece of white cloth to be used as my turban. Later, Hisham told me that was a good deal which made me very happy! Disappointing Moroccan people with my frugalness seemed to be a reoccurring habit!
We finally arrived at a hotel in the Sahara and it was a very dry 106 degrees. I had just enough time to go for a quick, refreshing swim which seemed like such an extravagance…swimming pool in the middle of the desert! But I couldn’t swim long as I had to get ready for our much anticipated camel ride.
A handsome Moroccan man helped me put on my turban and I loved it! The camel came with a saddle and a handle which I found to be totally necessary. While the camel sat I hopped on and after being warned to hold tight, the camel quickly rose causing me to lean way forward on the handles…yep, glad I heeded the warning to hold on tight!
Riding through the peaceful desert while experiencing the soothing sway of the camel seemed surreal. It was very quite, hot, but breezy and the beauty of the orange, rolling sand dunes totally surrounded me.
After forty-five minutes we stopped and dismounted the camels to watch the sunset. While sitting on the sand dune watching the gorgeous sunset, I met couples from Japan, China. France and Canada. It was windy and the sand blew in my face. My turban wasn’t enough to protect my eyes so I went and got behind my camel hoping it wasn’t true that they spit. He seemed to like me and obliged me by not spitting on me! We mounted again and silently rode another forty-five minutes to our camp.
Wow…the camp! It was not at all like the little tent I pictured in my mind! It was a group of tents connected by rugs and lovely lights with two beds, a modern toilet and shower and hot water in each tent! At the end was located one larger, gorgeous tent where we met for dinner and breakfast. A few cats roamed around to provide us entertainment.
Dinner was served with a LOT of delicious food of which I didn’t make a dent and I secretly hoped the cats would benefit from the leftovers.
After dinner, we gathered at the opposite end of the camp to listen to Berber music which consisted mainly of drums and a metal clanking instrument. Opportunities were offered for each of us to play the instruments and of course I jumped at the chance…it wasn’t as easy as it looked! The easy part was dancing in a circle around what looked like it should have been a campfire, only there was no fire. I resisted the urge to break out shagging!
The sand dune in the dark and the stars were calling our names so we stumbled through the dark to the nearest dune. It was very dark and the stars at night in the desert were breathtaking. It was also breathtaking when I started to slide down the dune and couldn’t get back up! The two strong Moroccan guides sitting next to me grabbed my hands and pulled me back up while we all laughed!
Preparing for the next day, I asked one of the guides if he would knock on our tent and wake us up for the sunrise. He promised he would and with that thought I went to bed for my first night ever in a desert!