Morocco 2017 – Into the Red Dunes –

We end our too-short stay at the Kasbah Moyahut, and find a young man in a white turban and blue caftan waiting for us out front.  It’s Moha, our camel guide and camp master, who would take us into the Erg Chebbi dunes, the tallest in Morocco. We drop Mohamed off at Moha’s “Camel’s House” where he will rest up for a couple of days.

Our camels arrive; we grab our overnight satchels and mount up.

Not quite an hour later, our camp comes in to view … a cluster of dark nestled in a depression between the dunes. We dismount and while the camels are led off to feed, we are shown to our tents which surround a carpet-strewn courtyard.  

The ‘restaurant’ is a tall circular tent draped on the inside with yards of colored ‘silk’.  We are seated on low couches that line the walls, and enjoy a kefte and egg tagine, a beautiful Moroccan salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, corn and green pepper, and a bowl of the green olives I have come to favor. Orange slices sprinkled with cinnamon and tea round out the meal.

I am told there is internet reception here, so I take my laptop to the top of a dune to “Facebook from the desert.”  I don’t get a signal.  What I do get is a lot of sand in my keyboard as the wind picks up.  I close up my laptop and climb a taller dune for some photography, my bare feet are rejoicing in the hot sand.

Soon it’s time for our sunset ride. We zigzag along the edges of dunes, watching as Moha and Hassan pick out pathways that offer the least amount of vertical climb. It’s like mountain climbing – you don’t go straight up, you zig-zag, which takes longer but is safer and more energy efficient.

It’s still warm but the wind is really kicking up as we climb to the top of the dune. I pull my scarf over my face and watch the dunes change color in the setting sun. Moha and Hassan both pose for photos with me.

Catherine, caught on camera by her husband Mark Charteris
Brenda checks on our camels
Moha and Hassan enjoy the sunset

As the sun sets, the dunes continue to shift and shadow and the landscape becomes surreal, and I try to embed the red landscape into the deepest recesses of my brain. When I can no longer distinguish the sand from the sky, my attention is drawn upwards to a canopy of blazing stars…

After dinner, everyone is invited to a bonfire and drum circle. Doug converses with one of our hosts in Egyptian Arabic, who translates into Moroccan Arabic for another camel man, who in turn translates into Berber. Doug takes out his phone, pulls up a video, and hands it around the circle.  The stars are bright and the fire backlights four men, in turbans and caftans, t-shirts and jeans, with no common language, as they share a video on a cell phone in a camel camp in the Western Sahara.

I think I’ve walked into a “I’d like to buy the World a Coke” commercial… a fitting end to an incredible day.

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