Bob Marley was a Jamaican singer who was best known for reggae songs like No Woman, No Cry and One Love. I’m not sure that Bob knew that he had also lent his name to a camel.
Going out into the Sahara desert, I was atop the back of a camel named Bob Marley Rasta. Bob Marley Rasta and the caravan of camels – sounds catchy, no? Camels are sometimes known as the ships of the desert for their ability to carry loads over long distances and the general awesomeness of their being able to go for a really long period of time without drinking water.
I guess you need that sort of survival and adaptability to be living out in the Sahara!
Waking up next to the Sahara must be one of the best ways to wake up. The start of the desert was all of a hundred metres away – you could have gone out to it any time you felt like it, really. My one night at the auberge was pleasant, with only myself and a French couple staying, so it was quiet and I slept easy. In the morning, I was woken up by the French couple saying bonjour to the auberge staff outside my window – not a bad way at all to wake up, with birds chirping outside and the cool mornings.
After an afternoon of lazing around, walking around Merzouga and sipping on mint tea (I love that stuff, it’s my catnip) we headed out to the desert at sunset, just as the sun started turning the world shades of gold.
It didn’t take me very long to realise that wearing a headscarf was invaluable – it kept the sun off the back of my neck, saved me from sunburns, and most importantly kept the flies off my ears.
Let me explain. I have this paranoid fear of insects crawling into my ear. Any buzzing near my head makes me flinch reflexively – I jump and swat anything around my head, and I’ve actually wound up hitting myself a couple of times because of it. (I never said it was a smart reflex.)
I have a mild heart attack any time I hear insects buzzing near me – that moment when they’re so close to you that the sound just gets louder and louder until it’s right beside you. I become paranoid and start thinking that they’re going to crawl into my ear canal, and they’re going to lay eggs and hatch and eat my brains or something gross and disgusting.
My ears are starting to feel funny just typing all that.
At this point, with a dozen flies circling my head and buzzing all around me, it was actually terrifying. A few times I wound up covering my ears when it all got too much. Thank goodness I was wearing a headscarf, which was absolutely the best thing because it made damn sure that none of those flies would be getting inside my ears.
The person who was leading my camel was a Berber named Ibrahim, born and raised in the desert. I didn’t speak very good French and he didn’t speak very good English, so striking up conversation was challenging but rewarding when I managed to learn a ton of new vocabulary and grasp the meaning of sentences in French!
Ibrahim told me that the camels needed to be led because they won’t walk without someone in front of them – which is why he couldn’t be on camel-back too, because if he were we wouldn’t be able to go anywhere!
The sand dunes of the Sahara (which, by the way, is Arabic for ‘desert’ – so Sahara Desert really means ‘desert desert’) looked just incredible – so soft and pure it was almost unreal.
My sense of perspective went entirely out of whack, because there weren’t any trees or familiar things to compare the size of the dunes to. Looking at the dunes from afar, they didn’t seem that big, but once I started climbing them I started to realise just how much of a workout it was!
We got to the place we were staying for the night – sturdy tents right next to Morocco’s biggest sand dune, Erg Chebbi. We got there just in time to see the sun go down and climbed one of the smaller dunes nearby to watch the sunset.
It was surprising how difficult it was to walk. The sand was so fine, dry and soft that although every step was like walking in cloud, it was like walking in cloud that was sinking. It was almost like getting a proper workout – being unfit as I am, I soon collapsed on the sand and lay down to catch my breath!
I was surprised by how quickly the desert cooled down as soon as the sun set. There must have been at least 10 degrees of difference between evening and night time – although the afternoon and evening was properly hot, night time was chilly and almost cold. And here I was wondering why I had been told to bring a jacket with me!
Dinner in the desert was traditional Moroccan Berber fare – a three-part meal of chicken tajine, couscous, and lots of fresh Moroccan fruit. Being so far out, we didn’t have electricity, so we had dinner by candlelight.
After dinner, we sat outside and started playing music – North African beats and rhythms on all sorts of drums, some Berber singing, and everyone whipped into a wild frenzy of food-induced full-belly happiness as we danced around under the moonlight. It didn’t take me very long to overcome my self-consciousness about my dancing – by the time we started going round in circles in trains, all sense of inhibitions had been lost to the beauty of the desert.
As the night started to wind down, I walked out a little away from the rest of the group to simply enjoy being in the desert, laying out on the soft sand looking at the star-speckled night sky.
Singing, dancing, eating and being under the beauty of the stars and Sahara desert – what more could you ask for?
Camel Trekking in Merzouga
Web: Camel Trekking Merzouga
Phone: + 212 667 879 247