I never, ever imagined that I would go to the Sahara, and it was never in my radar. But what is great about life is that your travel friends introduce you to places that expand your travel horizon. Such was the case when Safia mentioned this place, leaving me spellbound at the idea of riding a camel in the Sahara. A new adventure is always intoxicating, but this one truly made me smile SO wide when I got the news via Safia’s email on my iPhone that those around me must have thought that I was flirting with a lover when I was imagining my camel ride against the sand dunes of the Sahara.
We woke up to sunny skies on that Saturday morning at the charming Hotel Palais des Cerisiers. Kacem wanted me to see the beautiful grounds, and although we didn’t have time, he made it a point for me to take some pictures of the beautiful property as well as witness the gentle swans in their morning walk. But we had to leave soon after since our goal was to reach the Sahara to ride the camels during sunset. The thing that made the journey all the more exciting was that we were not sure if we would make it to the desert in time; if we arrived after sunset then we would have to ride the camels the next morning at sunrise. Of course, sooner is always better than later so we started our journey with the very best of intentions that we would arrive in time to catch the sunset in the Sahara.
The view from the backseat of Safia’s car was like my childhood summers driving toward the beach with much anticipation. Although the scenery was nice, and in this case, simply gorgeous with views of the forever blue sky, the distant Atlas Mountains, and endless sun, the excitement of the destination, the Sahara, made it almost difficult to enjoy the ride. The highlight for me was when we stopped for a break and we saw some boys selling small boxes of dates. The boys were shy, and I insisted on taking a picture of them with Kacem, his arms hugging them with each arm. Then as we got back in the car, one of the boys handed me something. Made out of young palm tree leaves, it was a figure of a camel! As we drove away I smiled, looking back at the boys, and I took a fresh piece of date out of the box while smiling at my little green camel made of palm leaves.
As I stared at the Moroccan sky for hours and hours, there was something different about the blue of the blue sky as we approached the Sahara. I thought it was in my head but Safia noticed, too. The blue was a very special shade of blue. It was as if translucent powder dusted against the blue sky. The color was almost milky, powdery, and just plain beautiful. Then I wondered, how many shades of blue skies are there in the world? As I daydreamed about this along with all the blue skies that I would travel to in the future, somehow we were driving into the Hotel Kasbah Tombouctou. We arrived. We made it!
Everything happened way too fast upon our arrival. We checked into the hotel. Then we dropped off our luggage. We then walked toward the sand. There were three camels tied together, kneeling on the sand, and without too much thought, all of a sudden I was getting ON the camel, with help, of course. My camel stood up and I was scared that I would fall off, for sure. I was so, so happy! And I truly was smiling from ear to ear. It felt AMAZING! I was on the last camel and Kacem was on the first camel while Safia was on the second. Our guide, Mohammad, was dressed in a royal blue garment and he was gently guiding the first camel on foot while the rest of the camels followed as they were all tethered together. I was so damn lucky to be in the back. I could see the camel’s hooves gently, gracefully, take steps on the sand, and with each step there seemed to be gentle puffs of smoke as each hoof landed. I thought I was imagining this but in reality the Sahara’s sand was extremely fine so it had a dusting effect from the camel’s landing. My amazing ride, feeling like I was at the top of the world, became better after we came to the top of our very first sand dune. All I could see in front of me was the majesty of the Sahara sand and the sky. That was it. Sand dunes and the sky of the Sahara. At that moment at the top of the world it seemed like nothing mattered in my life except the sand and the sky. Even the camels seemed to be in awe as there seemed to be a pause as they, too, were taking in the beauty. Then we proceeded. I felt like my camel and I were one as with each dune and each of his steps I could sense the softness of the Sahara’s sand. After coming to a rest spot the camels were tied up while we all went barefoot up a large sand dune to take in the sights. When you are at the top of a Sahara sand dune, allow your guide to give you a sand slide. Trust me on this. The sand is so fine that it doesn’t hurt when it gets inside your pants. You will laugh and you will have the time of your life. I promise.
When it was time to head back, our camel ride was in the almost dark by then. Then a few minutes later, darkness. Ahead of us was the glimmer of a sky, the fading sunset, and the horizon. We said good night to Mohammad, and I thanked the camels in silence. After a great dinner followed by a relaxing hammam at the hotel spa, it was time for bed. Drifting off to sleep was so, so easy. The dreamy imagination of the next morning’s sunrise was awaiting us, and I felt certain that the view of the Sahara’s morning glow over the sand dunes promised a vision of spectacular beauty.