Thursday, March 7, 2013

Morocco: The Desert

Our final excursion out of Fes was to the Sahara near the border with Algeria. From Fes, it was a 9 hour drive to the dunes through some of the most amazing landscapes I've ever seen. We passed through Mediterranean rolling hills, an Atlas cedar forest, a French ski village, a whirling dust storm, one of the world's largest oases, and a high desert plateau surrounded by soaring peaks that were about to receive their first snow of the year.

We arrived at our hotel after a long drive across a desolate black plateau in the middle of a sand storm. We could barely see 5 feet on either side of the car, and even then it was only parched black earth. Our hosts came out to help us scramble inside as the blowing sand proceeded to wedge itself into every mouth, eye, ear, and otherwise.


After a tasty meal, our hosts treated us to some Berber drumming and we turned in for the night as the sandstorm blew on.

We awoke to a serene breeze through the window, and the wall of blowing black sand outside had settled to reveal endless golden dunes only 20 feet away. We ate a quick breakfast and went out to start our journey.

We met our two camels, one brown was brown and wooly and the other beige with a nose ring. Of course we named them after our brown and beige cats at home, Bert and Pica (We eagerly asked the camel drivers if they already had names, he answered "No. They are camels.").

The back view of Chris on the camel in front of me.

 After a long, beautiful camel ride through the martian landscape (through which the blustering wind and camel jostling made drawing close to impossible), we settled into our Berber campsite for the night, hoping to see the amazing starry skies you can only see when you're miles from civilization.

Pica the camel.

Naturally, as the sun was going down, the storm clouds were rolling in. As we were lying in our tent, trying to sleep through the booming thunder, we began to feel the pitter-patter of rain drops on our faces. The carpet/bamboo roof of our tent was not exactly waterproof, and as the frequency of the drops began to increase, we scrambled our things together and ran into the main tent where we huddled with a nice Australian family under the more substantial roof. We were treated to a torrential downpour in the middle of the Sahara desert as the deluge of water poured into the tent on all sides of our little mattresses in the center.

We didn't end up seeing any stars at all, but I feel like a rainstorm in the Sahara is just as unique of an experience, and we can see the stars the next time. Plus the sunrise the next morning made all the rain worth it, as the dunes that had been faded and shifting yesterday became crisp, solid, and vibrant after the rain.


Unknown said...

Gorgeous drawings and photos, Evan!

Gina Hiatt, Ph.D. said...

"No, they are camels." I love it!

Evan, I want to eat up that picture of the desert. It's so gorgeous. Really. Turn it into a giclee or something so that I can afford it.