The Sahara Desert
The Sahara was an experience of a lifetime, mostly because we never knew what to expect. We took the slow route to the desert, a two day journey by car and camel. Our driver, Ahmed, took us to various sites along the way including an old castle where Gladiator was filmed. When we could go no further by car, we jumped on our camels. This was our first surprise. I thought we would be going with a big tour, but there were only two camels, actually they aren't even camels they were Dromedary because they only have one hump, but for writing purposes I'll call them camels. So there was one camel for me and one for Davin and our guide Moustafa would lead us by foot (the Moroccans don't actually ride their camels, because what we would find out is they are super uncomfortable). So we jumped on and I figured we would be meeting up with a big group in the Deserts Dunes. We rode two hours into the desert, slowly watching all civilization disappear, until we were completely surrounded by amber colored sand in all directions. I asked Moustafa where we were going and he just pointed into the distance and said there. I looked at Davin, shrugged and went with it. We kept passing all of these luxurious camps with huge tents to house many people, and colorful pillows and Moroccan rugs. I began to get excited thinking this is where we were going. But we kept passing by them. Finally, I knew we had to almost be there but I could see nothing but ruins in front of me. Our camel started to slow down, and Moustafa stopped and told us we had arrived. I looked around, to my left was sand, in front of me was more sand, and to the right of me was a little sand/mud house. I was confused, where was the luxurious camp I thought I booked. I asked Moustafa knowing we had to have made a wrong turn, "Are you sure this is our camp." He looked at me and said, "Yes, tonight you sleep with nomad." Nomads are small groups of people that wander around Morocco and settle for periods of time in certain places, and then move on. They are free, and home is wherever they go. Davin and I looked at each other confused but obeyed Moustafa. We got off and went up to the sand/mud house and were greeted by a toothless old man. We said hello and thank you for hosting us, and quickly found out he spoke no English. He showed us to our room, which had a blanket for a door and a one inch thick cot on the dirt floor for a bed. Then he led us into his sitting room filled with colorful pillows and a "window" without glass that overlooked the Moroccan sunset and brought us mint tea. I was immediately uncomfortable because everything was quiet, still, and slow. We had no phones, no wifi, no electronics, no books, and no one that spoke english except for each other. At this point in traveling I was so used to moving, and talking, and going, and seeing, and doing. Now, I knew these two days in the desert would be exactly what I was not used to, relaxation, and stillness. Davin and I shared a bottle of wine, and our camel guide Moustafa made us a Berber Pizza and Tajine which was some of the best Moroccan Food I've ever had. After, Davin and I watched about a million shooting starts pass by until we slowly went to sleep. We woke up the next morning and I thought I was seeing a mirage. Slowly from the distance hundreds of camels were appearing from the horizon line as the sun was rising. It was one of the coolest sites I've seen. Getting to stay with our new nomadic friend was probably the best part of our Moroccan trip. I learned so much in a night. He and Moustafa were so happy, they didn't have much, and their lives were very simple, but they were happy always. They even spoke of their happiness frequently, something you don't hear often in the USA. We spent the rest of our time in the desert sliding down Sand Dunes, taking naps in the hot hot heat, talking with our new berber friends. We did eventually get to go to the camp I thought we would stay at the first night. We listened to our Berber friends play the drums and sing about their life and freedom, we danced under the stars, and talked about life in the Desert. I had never been surrounded by so much joy. Everyone I met was genuinely happy and they never seemed to let the small stuff get to them. Our camel man Moustafa became our good friend, who we still talk to a few times a week. Our entire Sahara experience was a journey. We never knew where we were going, we never knew when we would eat, and we never knew where we were. Everything was new, and everywhere we looked we had no experience or image to compare it to. I learned so much about being present in every moment, as well as finding joy in the smallest of things from my new Desert friends.