Thursday, April 12, 2012

How do you say desert in Berber? "Sahara"

This is what our Berber chauffeur told us on our 1 hour drive into the Sahara desert in "cuatro por cuatros" (aka 4x4s aka jeeps not quads). We also learned some Arabic on our way (the Berbers speak an average of 5 languages, simply from always being around tourists).

As Salaam Malikium: Peace be with you
Yela: Let's Go
Balak: Watch out/Be careful (basically it is what the Berbs yell at you in the narrow streets of the medina so you don't get hit by their donkeys)
Shukran: Thank You

But before we got to the 4x4s we had about a 10 hour drive by bus from Fes. And even though that seems like a lot, 1. i drive that every time i go to school and 2. we probably saw every type of terrain imaginable on our way there. We went through forests, canyons, rivers, mountains, oases, the whole nine yards. We had bathroom breaks literally in the middle of nowhere where we just had to pop a squat and move on, but i must say it was quite liberating. Who needs the necessities of bathrooms anyway? It was an adventure unlike any other.

On our way to the "oasis" where we stopped for lunch we passed thick forests, dry plains, and Utah canyon lookalikes. Our lunch consisted of a buffet of roasted chicken, carrots, potatoes, a pepper and tomato sautee, white rice and the moroccan pita type bread. There were oranges for dessert, so, of course, Ray, Simone, and I grabbed around 3 purses-worth (filled 3 bags with as many oranges as we could fit without our purses breaking). Listen, these oranges are incredible. And we were heading to the desert, we didn't know the next time we'd eat (obviously that was the only thing on my mind).
The oasis stop

As we got closer to where we would be entering the Sahara to find our tents, we noticed a huge cloud getting bigger in the distance. What Simone initially said looked like a sandstorm did in fact end up being just like that. So by the time we got to our 4x4s, we had to wait at least an hour because they couldn't drive us during the storm. We ended up stopping at a fossil store and witnessed how they cut and find the fossils in the rocks. Because the Sahara used to be an ocean, there were fish and crustacean fossils from 500 MILLION years ago! I snagged some rocks/fossils off the ground because I didn't feel like paying any money for the big ones (they were just going keep stepping on them anyway).

Once the sandstorm was over (and we unfortunately missed the sunset) we took the 4x4s for a little over an hour. We were told by a friend who did this trip last spring to tell the Berbers to drive fast, but we soon realized that this wasn't as fun as it sounded. The dunes were extra bumpy from the storm and people were quickly getting nauseous. Our driver's name was Rashid, a nomad Berber who could (of course) speak 5 different languages). If anyone is thinking of traveling to Morocco, I have his new business card- he started his own traveling business for Sahara excursions and even created his own webpage- Yela! As he told us all this I kept falling between being creeped out (per usual) and thinking he was genuinely nice. My feelings sided with paranoid when he wanted to pick us up in the morning and bring us to his village. Granted, he wanted us to have some tea or something harmless but in my paranoid mind, foreign men are always out to get us American girls. However, I will admit the Berbers were probably the most friendly people we've met so far, they just constantly hassle you as well.
By the time we got to our tents we were starving and tired. We ate dinner buffet in our main lounge tent  (couscous, etc again) and headed to our "rooms", individual tents that had 5 mattresses. We added on the layers because after the sun had set it got reeeaallly cold.

At one point in the middle of the night, I woke up to a "HOLY S__T IT'S SO SCARY!" which was Anna trying to leave the tent to take a tinkle. As soon as I heard her I opened my eyes and started to panic. My eyes were open but there was no difference between being open and being closed- it was absolutely pitch black. Never in my life have I experienced such a darkness as that night. We had no lights (they turned them off from a main generator at a certain point) and even though i'm sure the moon was out somewhere, our tents were made of a thick (probably camel hair) material that didn't let any light in. At one point i checked to see if i had gone blind overnight, waving my hand in front of my face and seeing absolutely nothing different. I started panicking and thinking about scorpions and weird bugs being in my mattress with me and crawling into my easily-nestable hair. I snuggled with Rachel and tried to remember how Rashid said there were no dangerous animals in the Sahara ("Well, there are dangerous animals but they usually stay away from the tents"- oh.).
In the morning we were supposed to be woken up by the Berbers so that we could see the sunrise but we ended up just hearing other people talking. I ran outside to see if we had missed it but it was just still rising. This was our first time truly seeing how we were staying in the middle of the Sahara desert. The scenery was breathtaking.

Home sweet home

The 4x4s

After breakfast (hard boiled eggs, crepe like pancakes with orange marmalade and really tasty, chocolatey coffee) Ray and I headed into the dunes (attempting) to do some yoga. We even tried to meditate but what i really think we did was just relax and take in such an amazing silence.

We soon headed back to get dressed and ready to RIDE SOME CAMELS! Hello check off the bucketlist!!!! (By the way out of the 600 pictures i took on this trip, at least 150 were either of camels or donkeys). I was more giddy to see camels in person than my sister is when Dad announces stuffed artichokes for dinner (it's incredibly giddy).
Next thing you know we were up and on them, holding on as they awkwardly got up from sitting down on all 4 legs (pretty sure they are double-jointed, tripled-kneed and weirdly-legged attributed). Thinking in my usual Broadway-staged mind, this would be the perfect scene to sing "A Whole New World" from Aladdin- all we had to do was change the words a little: Shining, shimmering, splendid. Over, sideways and under on a magic CAMEL RIDEEEEEE. (Insert camel in place of carpet). We rode the camels for a while until we ended up at a huge, mountainous dune where we got off camels and started climbing. It was a fantastic view from the top. Ray and I could've stayed up there all day but the Berbers insisted we had to finish our camel ride into the nearby village. There we stopped at a hotel (where our spoiled little directors stayed) and got to dip our feet in the surprisingly cold pool. It was a perfect combination- cold feet, sunbaked face and a blindingly white torso that needed some sun exposure.

Lil Baby Berbs


Once we finally got back to our tents, the day was at it's peak heat- even the sand was too hot for our bare feet. We wandered off to be left alone from the Berber salesmen that seemed to hang around our main station and laid on towels, soaking it all in. However, if we weren't dodging Berbs, we were avoiding giant black beetles (harmless but too big and always too close for comfort).

Mom + Dad (my #1 blog fans) I have more to write but I do still go to class here so gimme a day or two before you email me saying I haven't updated the blog :)


  1. I like night in desert specially campfire i have seen Thar Desert in Pakistan which is very un touched by international tourists if you are interested get flights for pakistan to explore new place and new destinations.

  2. Very awesome pics i am sure you have lot of fun there last time i booked cheap umrah packages after prformance of umrah i have visited deserts they are very hot and it is tough to stay there.