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  • JoAnn Gustave

Reflections: One night in the Sahara

Updated: Jan 21, 2020

The tribe arrived to the desert town of Errachidia, Morocco around 3:30 pm local time and we quickly changed into our bathing suits for a refreshing dip in the auberge pool before our camping ride. We were only allowed to take an overnight bag as the facilities were pretty basic at the camp site so we gathered our toiletries and pajamas for the night and off we went.

I had only seen the elaborate depiction of camel rides on television and they made it seem so regal and glamorous that I was looking forward to my long awaited dream of being on the animal myself. The journey ahead was not long but a bit daunting, keeping in mind the weight of what the camels were able to carry and the short length of the stay… My dream quickly burst into reality when we finally got on and situated ourselves on to the camel’s back. This was no majestic movie scene; very far from it I might add. Getting on the camel was quite an event; Imagine a real-life Transformer in the shape of a non-stop chewing, pooping and drooling animal. Not as fancy in real life as one might think it would be.

The ride into the Sahara was a fun experience, although I must have snapped my neck getting off of the camel, figuratively speaking, but watching the sun set was beautiful. The weather was super dry and even when there was not one cloud in sight, it was perfection. We went into the desert for about an hour and a half and while it wasn’t the smoothest ride one could take, it was worth every second that it lasted.

Photo credit: Melissa Jules @life_thru_my_lenses

Once every five minutes or so, you would feel a breeze, the scenery was gorgeous; the view straight out of a romance novel! Here I was, some 4,594 miles away from home with seven other travelers who had trusted me enough to follow me on this journey. We were all in awe of this beauty. An infinite amount of rusty sand, with an oasis patch here and there, a truly unrivaled beauty on what I may casually call an easy afternoon.

I could write a million words to try and explain what I saw but I’m not sure one could grasp this feeling without being present. I suddenly felt blessed beyond what I felt I deserved.

Photo credit: Melissa Jules @life_thru_my_lenses

Shortly after arriving at our camp in the spectacular brown desert, we were served a glass of mint tea followed by a very delicious tagine meal. The Berbers, native to the region and better known as Imazighen "free people",put on a drum show for us at dessert and our guide Lahcen surprised one of the members of our group, who happened to be my very best friend with a birthday cake. She was so emotional that she cried. No one could have expected a personalized cake in the middle of nowhere. That was so very sweet and extra thoughtful. We all sang, taking turns at some popular tunes that the Berbers also knew.

The birthday girl requested that we put our phones down for the rest of the evening and we did just that. Someone must have snapped a couple of pictures before the phoneless event because I received this shot of our hosts the next day in our group chat.

As we settled in for bed, we decided to camp under the stars instead of the tents because the weather was a little warm and frankly when would we ever get a chance to do so again? It was the most beautiful sky I had ever seen with our hosts pointing out the Milky way as well as Jupiter in her golden glow.

My dear friend Deborah and I got tired of counting shooting stars but I must have stayed up all night just gazing at the sky. I read somewhere that if you stay in one place long enough, you no longer get struck by it's beauty; I'm not sure I would ever tire of looking at this divine scenery.

What a beautiful day we’d had. How tiny we felt. Morocco does a lot for the soul. I felt renewed, for a moment there I understood my purpose and my heart was full. Love was everywhere and in everything. The Berbers gave us a taste of the simple life and even when we did not speak the same language, their hospitality was so genuine and their love for life so strong that we connected to them on a level that was unbelievable!

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