The Sahara greeted us with an amber glow. We oohed and awed as we approached the marvel of sand dunes before us, snapping photos to capture the moment. We veered off the paved road and drove for 5 minutes on gravel and sand, where men dressed in blue tunics and turbans awaited our arrival.
We jumped off the bus and grabbed our bags. “Your bag is too big, you can’t take it on the camel but you have to hurry, we have to go!” one of the Berber men tells us. “Ahh.” No surprise; no one at the hotel nor the driver, who had seen all our bags in the back of the bus, bothered to mention we needed a small pack. My travel buddy and I quickly accessed what we needed and off we went.
We bee-lined it to the bathroom and then saw our camels. My travel buddy freaked out when she realized, she was going to have to carry her big pack. Why did we assume there would be someone to carry our bags? She was lucky our friend Juan offered to carry it for her (there was no turning back to the bus). It’s interesting what happens when you’re not told information. Our brains make things up.
I felt like a whirlwind had passed right by. No time for questions or tying a turban around my head. We were a top the backs of camels. My camel was first in line.
We were behind schedule, a race with the sun.
The sun was setting and the sand glowed. Cool air brushed against my face. Clouds of rain were forming. I laughed at our luck. Everyone is wearing a turban to protect them from a sand storm, while the gods are crafting a different type of storm.
I tried to make conversation with our guide but he pretended he didn’t speak Spanish. Or English. Arabic and French are the national languages in Morocco but most who work in tourism speak some Spanish and English. I don’t blame him. He probably walks with a new group of tourists everyday. It must get old. Same questions and conversations.
I started talking to my camel. Grateful, he was willing to walk, again. Who knows how often the camels do this one hour and half walk.
Our guide changed his attitude and made small talk. He took our pictures and then handed me some Danish coins, clearly no value to him nor any interest in having a coin collection.
Rain drops splashed our face as a mere welcome to the Sahara desert. I mentioned to Lisa when we first boarded our camels, “It’s going to rain, look at the clouds.” “Don’t wish it upon us,” she said. I didn’t need to talk to rain Gods or wish upon a cloud, I could feel the water in the air. Thankfully it was a light rain. So much for sand storms.
We reached our camp at sundown and my eyes started to create visions out of the darkness. Tents are set up (one below taken at sunrise) as a permanent structure in the desert. Camel riding could be Morocco’s national tourist symbol.
We arrived in the dark and made our way into the dining tent and were quickly served dinner, couscous and a delicous chicken and veggie type stew with endless bread.
After a night of enjoying conversation, laying in the sand under the Saharan moon light, watch friends and our Berber guide dance over fire, we attempted to fall asleep. We were so cold despite several layers of musty blankets when we heard the wake up call at 5am, I felt it was time for bed.
There was no time. Grab your stuff and head to the “Camel parking lot.”
Now I’ll let you in on a little secret… Ready?
If you have the romantic notion that riding a camel is Romantic, you may want to rethink what you call Romantic. It’s not. Thirty minutes into riding the night before, my bum was aching and my legs wondered what muscles had been dormant for so long. Camels are uncomfortable. Hump or no hump.
You do have some pretty cool photo opportunities but don’t think for one minute its comfortable. Your body will wonder what the hell happened and where you got such a brilliant idea.
But you’ll likely do it anyway because it’s cool to say you’ve ridden a camel in the desert, Sahara desert. And then you’ll tell all your friends, how bloody uncomfortable it is and how you tried doing yoga poses while riding. But it’s difficult because, you’re riding a camel. Moving objects and yoga don’t really go together.
I can officially cross riding a camel off my list. Riding a camel in the Sahara desert off the list, that is!