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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I've Been Through the Desert on a Camel with No Name

What do you get when you cross three Brits, four Americans, one Arab and a minibus?
A cross between an iPod commercial and the film "Little Miss Sunshine."

Our trip to the Sahara Desert got off to a good start with Rock the Kasbah blaring on the van's speakers. One of our fellow travelers had created the perfect soundtrack for our next few days from the 9000 songs he had stored on his iPod.

After being in the car for two days, we finally turned left off the highway and sped across a sandy plain that soon gave way to the dunes of the Sahara. A few moments later, we were perched atop camels, making our way to our encampment. By the time we reached our tents, darkness had fallen. While our guide, Addi, made dinner, the lot of us bolted up the nearest dune in our bare feet, with only the half moon to light the way. Midway, I collapsed, observing the stars in the night sky.

When we came back down, we spread a large Berber rug in the sand in the middle of our circle of tents and the entertainment portion of the evening began with a meal consisting of chicken and vegetables. We passed the rest of the night beating drums and singing Berber songs along with Addi and the Berber family living at the encampment.

We were worried about how cold it might be in the desert at night, but we were more than comfortable in the warm tents. One member of our group, Ava, decided to sleep under the stars, and we found her the next morning curled up in a fetal position, completely hidden under her blanket.

Around 5:30 a.m., we trekked up a nearby dune, following the fresh tracks of a desert fox. We watched the colors of the sky go from a dark blue to pink, then to yellow as the sun crested over the distant horizon casting a warm glow on the rolling dunes.

We tried to savor the moment, however brief, for soon we were back on our camels for the trek back. Instead of returning to Marrakech with the rest of the group, Jennifer and I opted to stay the day at the auberge on the edge of the Sahara, sitting on the back patio, relaxing, writing in our journals and enjoying the peace and quiet. We had the place completely to ourselves, and the hotel manager gave us a room to use for the day.

That evening we hired a delivery vehicle to take us to the closest town to take the night bus to Fes.

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