Off to the desert.
After exploring Fes with Gutsy Women Travel, we headed to the location I was most looking forward to on the trip—the Saharan Desert. We would be camping for two nights surrounded by picturesque sand dunes and nomad families. I was thrilled to think that I might have the feeling of stepping back in time and to be so far removed from the busy cities.
We passed through the Middle Atlas Mountains along the way, and I was astounded by the variation of topography I had seen throughout the country so far. While Casablanca and Rabat had been almost strictly flat, the mountains we were now seeing reminded me of the Grand Canyon or some of the rock formations I had seen in my home state of Montana. Every sight and bend around the corner brought new surprises—including a light dusting of snow as we made our way farther and farther from civilization. Once we passed through the mountains, things became very desolate very quickly. Volcanic rock littered the ground and over the horizon, you could begin to see the masses of the sand dunes.
Hopping into Toyota 4x4s (which hilariously was the name of one of the camels at our hotel), we giggled all the way from one location to another. I loved being a bunch of adventurous women at that time and the way they fully embraced the bumps and slides of the cars as we made our way deeper into the desert.
Our camp was also an incredible experience. I didn’t know exactly what I was expecting when I was told we would be camping in the middle of the Sahara, but I was surprised and pleased when I got a glimpse of our beautiful area and the huge tents we would be staying in. If this was camping, I was willing to go for it.
Quickly donning the scarf I had purchased in Fes and tying it into a turban (Noury had shown me how), I went with a walk with some of the other ladies. It didn’t take long before we had ditched our shoes and had taken to walking nomad-style in the soft sand. There was no plastic and few rocks to worry about, and I felt almost like a kid again playing in the world’s largest sandbox.
One of the major highlights of the desert for me was visiting the home of a nomadic woman and her child. Her name was Labou (I believe this is the correct spelling—Noury told us it was an unusual name and may have been derived from her nomad family) and she and her five-year old son now occupied their own tent. She had recently been divorced and her husband had taken the tent they had shared together. Labou was now living in her deceased father’s tent and trying to make a survive as a single mother on her own. As she told us her story inside her home, you could hear our collective sighs and gasps—this story resonated with us as women on every level. We could all imagine ourselves in a similar situation, or we had had a friend or family member in a similar one.
After our meeting with Labou, we returned to camp. Tasting a delicious tajine cooked with amazing fresh vegetables and seeing the kitchen staff hard at work as they taught us how to make it, we were full and satisfied with experiences and delicious cuisine from the desert.
As a final farewell to our first day in the desert, Noury had put together a special music performance. Our desert guide, Rashid, was waiting for us by a roaring fire in the middle of the camp. The Gutsy Women quickly formed a congo line, playing spoons, and fully loving the sound of the drums echoing throughout the desert. Exhausted from dancing, we went to bed, looking forward to our next day in the Sahara.
Up next: Desert day two!
Have you ever been in the desert? What was your experience?