Sometimes I truly believe that my eyes deceive me. When they report images to my brain, I often struggle to seriously register what is going on. Gazing upon the rolling orange upon terracotta upon mustard dunes of the Sahara Desert is one such instance where I remember my head slowly shaking in disbelief, my lips curling upward and a zing of adrenaline shooting through my body. Pinch me!
This is day three of a four day tour from Marrakesh to Fes with Atlas Desert Tours. I felt the Sahara Desert needed a post all to itself, so if you wish to see the days either side please check them out here!
The Sahara Desert is the world’s largest hot desert covering an area comparable to the size of the United States of America. With temperatures that average 30oC (the highest recorded temperature being 57.7oC) the Sahara has a varied topography, with undulating dunes to the west and rock-strewn gravel plains to the east.
The Nile River is the only permanent river that runs through the desert, providing fertile soil for the spotted settlements that lay along its upside-down flowing waters. Oases and salt lakes do exist within the Sahara, however, and you will see many villages around them. These villages know that their water source can dry up and flood at varying times during the year.
In a word, the Sahara Desert is unique – its own mirage of grandeur.
Rocking this way and that as my camel rose from the ground, we were off on one of the coolest adventures to date – a camel safari into the Sahara to camp overnight.
As our caravan of camels shifted the sands beneath us, we began to cross the lurching dunes with randomly placed spinifex that looked smooth and exfoliated from the sandy wind. Trekking for a few hours with the sinking sun was a joyously repetitive and welcome treat. With every rising dune came another and then another, rolling like mountains off into the distance.
I feel I am quite monotonous in expressing how vast the dunes are, as if I am trying to prove a point – a point I think I am trying to prove to myself that this desert exists in the way that it does! With every minute that faded toward evening came a new shade of sky, beautiful enough to be in a pallet of eye shadow, contrasted spectacularly against the hues of orange and caramel dunes.
With this specific tour, we stopped for about 15 minutes to watch the sun sink beneath the horizon – a great photo op and chance to get up close to your four legged mammal.
Approaching camp felt to me like how a baby may feel when they open their eyes for the first time and take the present moment in. Here, in the absolute middle of sand – sand that stretches beyond what the eye can see – was a circle of tents set up at the base of a series of dunes (protected from the occasional harsh wind and sandstorm). These tents would be our sleeping quarters; hot and stuffy from the piercing African sun causing many to drag mattresses outside to sleep under the stars – which really was no issue at all.
Let me take a moment to remember the stars. Stars have never been more spectacular than in the Sahara (I have to throw a curveball in here and say they are also spectacular in the Maldives), with no artificial light to hide their appearance. Un-freaking-real.
We were spoilt with culture as we dined on local foods cooked over the fire where spices and aromas mixed with the fresh dune air. Entertained by drummers, we danced and made the sand squeak beneath our feet and I have no doubt that if stars could laugh, they would have been on that night.
The following morning we woke early (and even though in paradise, there was some reluctance from me) to watch the sunrise. I have never seen sand glisten like glitter as it did on this fresh Saharan morning.
Frolicking about on this fine fine morning, we sand-boarded, cartwheeled and simply sunk our feet as deep into the sand as they would possibly go. When you have this once in a lifetime opportunity, you act however you darn well please! And for me, it was to act like an excited 7 year old girl on Christmas morning.
Our coarse haired friends patiently waited as we had our fun, but it was soon time to pack up and head away from our surreal accommodation and toward the coolness of the pool at our riad.
Before leaving the edge of the desert, Hassan took us to a Moroccan burial ground. He explained to us about a loved one who was buried there and then went and poured water over the grave. This is a beautiful sign of respect, honour, life and nurturing.
Morocco is a great country to be totally absorbed in its culture. Locals are welcoming and willing to share their way of life with those interested enough to learn more. This country is easy to get to and also to get around in – especially when you have friends like Hassan.
It is also a good place to find traditional clothing, head pieces and have selfies with desert dwelling camels!
Find competitive flight deals on Skyscanner (we flew in with Royal Air Maroc from London and out to Turkey with Arabian Airlines ). While you’re at it, contact Atlas Desert Tours, request Hassan and book your Moroccan desert safari now. Like……now!