We’ve lived in Morocco for three years now and I think without doubt, our family’s favourite thing to do here is to take a trip down to the Moroccan Sahara desert.
What a joy it is for each one of us to get into the car in the cool of the morning and begin our 7 hour journey south… from Barbary Ape sightings in the cedar forests near the village of Azrou, to the wind-swept plains of Midelt where our little Renault Kangoo starts to rev its engines for the slow climb up and over the spectacular Middle Atlas mountains before descending through river valleys laying like gigantic green gorges lush with date palms in the earth’s arid crust. When we catch sight of those first golden Sahara dunes, all set ablaze by the late afternoon sun, we all cheer and a flood of excitement and awe overtakes the passengers in our tired little car as we bump along the volcanic rock trail for those last few kilometers before the kids fling themselves into the world’s largest sandbox and the adults have their breath taken away, again, at the sheer enormity and vastness of what I think is one of the earth’s true natural wonders.
The auberge is beautiful, perched literally on the edge of the dunes, it is built in the same style as the area’s traditional housing. Our kids M and Z are so busy collecting dung beetles and rolling down the dunes that they only notice later that our friends who work there have poured them cups of sweet mint tea to go with freshly roasted peanuts. After scarfing down their snack they’re back at their play and I’m eying the little swimming pool which looks heavenly after a day of hot dusty roads.
The camel trek out to the desert camp leaves in the late afternoon to avoid the heat of the day and we love the whole experience… from the hilarious lurching and jolting as the camel stands up under its load, to its skilled plodding on wide feet up and down the dunes… from a break to stretch our saddle-sore legs to watch the sunset paint the Moroccan Sahara sand about a dozen different shades of glory, to the first glimpse of the traditional Berber camelhair tents nestled in an oasis valley of sand where we will be spending the night. The cooks are ready to welcome us with snacks but again the kids are too busy dragging sleds and snowboards up the dunes to slide away into the dusk. We laugh… it’s almost odd how unaware they are as to what their father and I used to do with sleds and snowboards when we were their age living in Canada! Right now, even with the desert air quickly chilling off as the moon takes the sun’s place for the night, I would rather be using these arctic apparatuses on the sand than the snow!
A traditional supper is served and the staff encourage the caravaners to join them in playing their traditional instruments under the stars and candle light. As we fall asleep in our tents it’s hard to imagine the urban craziness we were just in that morning. The air is cool and fresh and the only thing that penetrates the silence is the occasional snort of the camels outside the camp. It’s difficult NOT to fall asleep with a smile on your face… what a trip to the Moroccan Sahara!