A night in the Sahara // Zagora, Morocco

A night in the Sahara // Zagora, Morocco

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After our harrowing trek from Marrakech to Zagora, we finally arrived at a small village of Berber nomads where we’d begin our camel ride to the desert camp. As we unloaded from the the car the wind was harrowing, with sand pelting any exposed skin. There along the roadside sat four camels, waiting patiently but perhaps grunting with boredom. Our guide, Ali, introduced himself and quickly helped us atop of the seated camels.

Ali strolled barefoot at a leisurely pace in front of the group, leading my camel first, tethered at the back by Dan’s camel, and so on. As we trudged along, our hoods filling with sand and a deafening blare of the wind; it was hard not to appreciate the solitude and nothingness of the desert, minus the road and power lines that lie not far away. A bit disappointing, but this minimal infrastructure supported a large Berber village in which Ali called home.

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After two hours we reached the Berber camp, our home for the next 12 hours. It was a semi-permanent fort with a circle of tents that could accommodate up to 100 visitors. On either end there were larger tents which acted as restaurants and lounges for inclement weather. In the middle of the circle, under the yellow awning, was another lounging area.

As checking-off items on the bucket list was a theme on this trip, our first order of duty was to hike up the nearby dunes for classic Sahara pictures. From the top we were able to get a better view of our camp.

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As night fell, we made our way to the ‘restaurant’ for an evening of music and an amazing Moroccan dinner. This was undoubtedly my favorite part of the entire trip. As the winds picked up outside, Ali and the other Berber Nomads played excitedly on a fellow traveler’s guitar. They were fantastic musicians and their energy was contagious. It’s hard to believe we were in the middle of the desert while listening to a nomad play Bruce Springsteen. Certainly a memory I won’t soon forgot.

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As the night came to a close we hustled back to our tent to escape from the wind storm outside. We all barely slept as the wind howled all night long. In the middle of the night we became so concerned that my friend kept her passport in hand in case anything were to happen. At a camp nearby, many tents collapsed in the middle of the night and a group had to relocate to our camp in the middle of the storm. When morning finally arrived we woke to a foreign silence as the storm had passed. As we sipped on fresh coffee, Ali shared that we had endured the most powerful windstorm of 2014.

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There are lots of experiences that happen on travel – eating something wonderful, meeting someone captivating and thought provoking, but experiencing a windstorm in the Sahara will always be an experience that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.

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