The journey I’ll never forget // The Sahara
Marrakech has so much to offer – food, shopping, museums, but the real reason why Marrakech was on my bucket list was it’s proximity to The Sahara. I wanted to see for myself what the stars look like without light pollution, ride a camel…just put my feet in the gritty sand. Scenes from The Alchemist resonated with me. To make this dream a reality, we had to journey from Marrakech towards Algeria- through the Atlas Mountains, Draa Valley, on to the town of Zagora and finally to the outer reaches of the Sahara.
Just as soon as we buckled ourselves into our 4 Runner our driver sped towards the mountains in the distance. I should add, all forms of traffic laws are set aside in Morocco. A simple understanding of function over form exists. It was clear from the beginning, that we were in a hurry. After an hour we found ourselves winding up the Atlas Mountains, cloaked in dense clouds, with no impact on the speed at which we were traveling. Just an hour in, I knew that this commute would be one I’d never forget, in the sweaty-palms-and-silence kind of way.
Whirling our way through the mountains, I did my best to capture the fleeting scenes passing by the window. Here, a small village served as stop for the weary.
Spotting these Cherry Blossom-like trees (as a former DC gal, I love them), I convinced our driver to pull off so we could briefly explore the ravine.
After 3 and a half hours of harrowing mountain roads, most of which were lacking guardrails, we finally made a stop in the town of Ouarzazate for lunch. Munching on tanjines, skewers of chicken, and olives, it was a welcome reprieve. Blaring Moroccan jams (as appealing and “authentic” as they were to start) and high speeds (this, coming from someone that drives the Autobahn regularly) are a terrible mix.
Finally, crossing the last of the Atlas, we coasted into the Draa Valley.
And there it was – The Sahara, in all it’s sandy glory. What was advertised as a 4 hour journey turned out to be 6 and half, with the desert laying before us like a trickster. We’d made it!
Details on our camel ride, dinner with Berber nomads and the strongest storm to hit the Sahara in 2014 to come!