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Adventure in the Sahara Desert

Adventure in the Sahara Desert

by Nancy Maclean

My quest for exploring the world’s deserts lead me to the Sahara, while on our adventure in Morocco. It was very much like I have imagined it, and the way I saw it portrayed in the movies. Stark, arid land, fine sand, contoured sand dunes, hardly a sign of any life; except for a palm tree here and there, signifying a water source below, few scattered nomad tents and an occasional walled off Kasbah, tell us that there is a life in the Sahara desert.

We met our drivers with their little 4x4 Toyota Prados in the town of Erfoud at the edge of the desert.

They loaded our luggage and we took off for our camp, deep in the Sahara Desert. Once off the paved road, we were driving on a good graded road, but the scenery was much different from what we are accustomed to in our Southwest deserts. Camel trains along the road were carrying supplies to the remote camps and solitary nomad families, living in this inhospitable land.

Along the way, we passed many nomadic tents, and the empty adobe structures, that any nomadic family can occupy if they want to stay in the area for a while. When they are ready to move, they will leave the place empty for the next family that may come along and need a place to stay. They will usually have their tent set up right next to the adobe.

As we were passing by, the man, head of the family waved to us to come and visit with them. In a few minutes, our little group was sitting comfortably under the tent, on the rug covered ground enjoying hot brewed mint tea and discussing the ways of the modest nomadic life in the Sahara desert.

The man had no education, and his teenage son was not going to school. He believed that he is doing fine without any education, and his son will do OK too.

Next we saw the lady of the house carrying a covered tray on her head, walking to the nearby adobe structure, where she started a small fire in an adobe oven. She placed a thin round of dough into the oven, and within minutes, she took out a beautiful golden brown round of fresh flat bread. We all tore off a piece and really enjoyed the taste and aroma of the freshly baked bread.

Continuing our drive, we stopped at the cemetery with shallow graves in the hard desert pavement, marked only with a rough rock from a nearby quarry. This is how nomads bury their dearly departed.

In the afternoon, we finally arrived at our camp, our home in the Sahara for three days. It did have all of the comforts of home, including queen size bed, a hot water shower, and a flushing toilet. 

Following the mandatory “happy hour”, our camp crew was cooking our dinner: a Moroccan “stuffed pizza” in a small earthenware wood fire oven.

After dinner, we all walked to a nearby hill, to watch the sun setting over a big dune. As the golden rays of sun were bathing the western slopes, and shadows were growing long, we were all mesmerized by the sensation of the moment and place, when the tune from the movie “The Laurence of Arabia” sounded off from somebody’s phone.

Back at the camp, our camp crew had a bit of the local entertainment for us by the lively campfire.

The next morning, our little Prados took us to the camel “parking,” where we all boarded our individual camels for trek through the dunes, for a full experience of the Sahara Desert. Having ridden camels before, this was not my favorite activity. But in this case, camels’ saddles were cleverly equipped with “handlebars” you could hang on, while the camel was ambling along.

It was an amazing experience, this time in the morning sun lighting up the coral sand dunes. The shadows of the dune contours and of the camels climbing them really gave me the sense of this unique place in the world.

But after an hour in a camel saddle, a distant Kasbah was a welcome sight and a place for a brief respit from the blazing sun. After a couple of days exploring around and about Sahara, it was time to get back into our Prados, and make tracks in the deep sands as we say goodbye to the Kasbahs and the sandy landscape of the Sahara Desert