Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Day 180: Surviving Morocco (Sahara Desert)

There were many reasons why I came to Morocco but one fantasy floated above the rest. It came to me while reading CouchSurfing profiles trying to find a host in Salamanca. Under the "Amazing Things Seen or Done" profile category, one guy had "spent a night in the Sahara desert." That sounded ridiculously fun. Luckily, I got the chance to experience the Sahara for myself.

I met with the guide all-to-early at 7 AM near Marrakech's Jemaa el Fna. Following breakfast I was guided onto a large van full of strangers. I introduced myself to the people sitting behind me who were from Morocco and France and I figured I would meet the rest soon enough. The van left the city and we began our three day tour. Two days of sights while driving to the Sahara. On the second day, we would ride camels to our camp where we would spend the night amongst the dunes. The third day we would come back to Marrakech. Off we go!

100 Photos from my 
Journey to the Sahara

1. As soon as we left Marrakech the scenery was lush and beautiful.
2. Our first stop was some big canyon thing. I almost slept through it.
3. We passed many kasbahs but Aït Benhaddou was the most fantastic.
4. They even had gift shops.
5. There are two bridges to get into the city.
6. Many movies have been shot here, including my favorite, Gladiator.
7. The texture of the buildings was incredible.
8. The entire city is made from adobe - clay and grass.
9. The view from the top was awesome.
10. I couldn't help wondering what living here would be like.
11. By far the largest nest I've ever seen.
12. Ciao Italia!
13. A beautiful valley shortly before we stopped at our hotel.
14. This rock was called Monkey Fingers' Rock. Whoopiedoo.
15. I was psyched to freak dad out with these photos.
16. Routine military training or Morocco getting invaded. You decide.
17. About to go for a tour through a field of local farm workers.
18. Wheat. Peel it before you eat it.
19. A huge farm with irrigation ditches.
20. The guide asked us not to take photos of the people...
21. So I took some artistic shots of the environment...
22. Weirdos.
23. Two girls two cameras. 
24. Ben and Faye were from England.
25. ... James was also from England.
26. This is anise.
27. We were having fun.
28. OK so maybe I took a few photos of the locals...
29. ...Now I feel kind of bad.
30. Poppies. You're getting sleepy.
31. Follow the leader.
32. There are male and female palm trees. This is Alibaba, a male.
33. A nearby village.
34. Work hard. Hard work. More work. Yes sire!
35. Ciao Italia stepped in the mud. Hardly Gucci approved.
36. A married palm couple. Male and female.
37. Our friendly tour guide.
38. A nearby village.
39. Walking through the streets was surreal.
40. Ancient illustrations.
41. Kids playing.
42. Dog sniffing.
43. We saw how women make intricate carpets.
44. ...And how women turn into men.
45. I believe this symbol is to ward off the evil eye (or my camera).
46. This older girl was none too happy when I took this photo.
47. A rock.
48. Later we saw a dude walking this donkey to make money from tourists.
49. We were in some big gorge.

50. We were on the bus for so long some of us went crazy.

51. We were almost at the desert and there was a flash flood.
52. The Sahara.
53. Our camels were waiting, smoking cigarettes.
54. Turban time.
55. Watching everyone get on the camels was a hoot.
56. We were all excited.
57. OK here we go!
58. Riding through the desert was surreal.
59. Riding a camel hurts a little bit.
60. Getting artsy in the Sahara.
61. I should send these photos to Microsoft as desktop backgrounds.
62. Andre had ridden a camel before and swore to never again.
63. The 40 thieves.
64. 'Twinky' was the camel next to me. He didn't have much to say.
65. Yes those are people. I was expecting to see a sand wurm at any second.
66. Another camel tour.
67. My camel was particularly fat and my crotch got a humpin'.
68. Faye's camel didn't feel like walking.
69. Loving every second.
70. "Are we there yet?"
71. Faye's camel fell over and she with it.
72. Spaceship landing.
73. Camel kiss.
74. Hey! Pose with your own camel.
75. 'Fuzzy' was tired and happy to sit down.
76. Camels are totally cute.
77. Walking into camp. This is where we would sleep.
78. We found a dung beetle. Unfortunately, no one would eat it.
79. Best of all there was a cat. Unfortunately, no one would eat it.
80. It didn't take us long to start exploring.
81. We started to climb this huge dune.

82. It was monstrously steep.
83. Only a few of us got to the ridge.
84. A new Facebook favorite.
85. I was the only one that made it to the top. The wind was incredible.
86. The view from the top.
87. Later we found out that this was the tallest dune around.
88. At night we ate tagine and listened to our guides play drums.
89. We laughed, the cat slept.
90. We climbed the dune a second time to watch the stars.
91. We woke up at 7AM to watch the sunrise.
92. The camels slept outside, just like that.
93. This view was way better than coffee.
94. A rainbow. How do leprechauns live in the desert?
95. We were all pretty messed up after a rough night of sleep.
96. Good thing we had a 8 hour bus ride ahead of us.
97. The views were amazing, even for the second time.
98. Doggies hanging out on the side of the road. 
99. A panorama from the top of the Kasbah.
100. Another panorama from just outside of Marrakech.

I thought squatting toilets were difficult – try the Sahara. Thank goodness the memories from this trip will last longer than the sand. Despite sitting on a bus for three days, I enjoyed every second of this trip. We saw a lot of fascinating places and gorgeous sites, but my new friends made these experiences truly special. Riding a camel was everything I hoped for, but the best part was joking about it afterwards. Out of all my experiences in Morocco this was the most fun. If you're interested in booking a tour to the Sahara, contact Abdella Excursions through Facebook.

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