Sunset in the Sahara

Some of the most memorable 48 hours of the summer were spent on a two-day, one-night excursion into the Sahara Desert. I signed up with three other friends from my hostel in Marrakech and the following day we hopped on a small tour bus to make the long journey southeast. About 16 people total fit in the vehicle (somewhat of a cross between a bus and a large white van), which at one point started off air-conditioned but simply could not compete with the 110° heat. Along the way we stopped at various points to take pictures of the beautiful mountain scenery or important landmarks. My favorite attraction was the ancient city of Ait-Ben-Haddou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and film set of dozens of movies and TV shows from Gladiator to The Mummy to Game of Thrones. The majority of the group was from Spain or South America, so the local tour guide explained everything entirely in Spanish. After drinking tea with one of the ten families that still lives in the village and then hiking up to the top of the hill, we returned to the more modern portion of the city to have a delicious meal of traditional Moroccan salad and vegetable couscous.

As the sun was setting we arrived at our destination and traded our van in for a fleet of camels. Led by Berber villagers, we rode for about an hour and a half into the dessert before arriving at the traditional village where we would spend the night. The Berbers spread out huge handmade rugs on the sand in the middle of the large ring of tents where they proceeded to serve us mint tea. We all then made our way inside the large main tent for an incredible dinner of chicken tagine and couscous, followed by melon for dessert. The rest of the evening was spent outside under the stars watching the villagers perform traditional music and dance and conversing with fellow travelers. As everyone journeyed back to their beds, a couple friends and I took a walk just outside the ring of tents. We eventually stopped on top of the highest sand dune we could find and stared in awe at the breathtaking array of stars above us. A while later we were joined by one of the Berber villagers who talked with us for hours about his lifestyle and asked endless questions about ours.

We eventually returned to our bedding (that we had dragged outside of our tent earlier in the evening) and fit in a couple hours of sleep under the stars before everyone was woken up to start the camel ride back to civilization. After the trip I shared this message with family and friends back home:

“Spent most of the night sitting under the stars on a sand dune in the Sahara talking with a Berber villager about religion, family, languages, and the nomadic lifestyle while our camels and the rest of the camp slept nearby. Words cannot describe Morocco.”