Sahara Desert

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The Sahara is one of the most incredible places I’ve ever seen in my life. I still can’t believe I got to go there. The desert tours in Morocco are quite cheap and really easy to book, but they involve being in a car with about twelve other people for an absolute eternity as you go over the Atlas mountains, through the Dades Gorge, and almost all the way to the Algerian border. It was actually snowing while we were driving through the mountains, and I kind of thought we were going to die. As our driver hurtled around hairpin turns on narrow roads at more or less 10 kajillion miles per hour, we saw two abandoned cars dangling halfway off the side of the mountain. That didn’t make me anxious at all…

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These are the kinds of roads we drove on.
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The Dades Gorge.

On the way to the desert, we saw the Dades Gorge at dusk, which was breathtaking, and got a tour of the ancient village of Aït Benhaddou. We didn’t get to the Sahara until late the next afternoon. It looked like a completely different planet – an endless sea of red sand dunes. And it was actually really cold, contrary to what people had told me about the desert being hot all the time. But riding a camel through the dunes was so magical that I didn’t even feel the cold. I just felt like a little kid. I couldn’t stop laughing the entire time I was on the camel because I was so overcome with awe and wonder. When we finally arrived at our campsite, we tried to climb to the top of one of the dunes to catch the end of the sunset, but it was nearly impossible. Scaling a huge pile of sand is way harder than it looks. Instead we just made sand angels and watched as the stars came out. Seriously, I wish everyone in the world had the chance to see the billions of stars in the Sahara Desert before they die. It was absolutely indescribable.

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An Atlas mountain Berber village.

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We had a campfire that night with the camel guides, where we smoked shisha together and spoke in a weird mixture of English, French, and Spanish. One of the camel guides, Ismael, invited me to venture further out into the dunes with him to look at the stars. I was feeling adventurous after the camel ride, so I said yes. We walked through the dark for quite a while, until we were surrounded by nothing but sand dunes and emptiness and silence. The Sahara is the quietest place I’ve ever been to. If you sit still, there is absolutely no sound, and it’s the eeriest, most magical thing.

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Ismael and I sat there and watched the stars for a while and spoke in Spanish (every camel guide speaks about seven languages). Of course, he wanted to know if I was married. When I told him my default response (yes), he lamented that he was the unluckiest man in the whole world because he would never get to marry me. Men are so dramatic sometimes! We slowly walked back to the campsite, past the huge, dark shapes of camels silhouetted by starlight. Ismael explained how they regurgitate their food from the day before so they can eat it twice. It was so romantic.

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The temperature dipped well below freezing that night, and I’m pretty sure my “bed” was just an old metal fence with a blanket over it. I didn’t sleep at all. My feet were numb when I got up for breakfast, and they didn’t stop being numb for the next 12 hours. I didn’t really care though. I got to see one of the most amazing places on the planet and it was everything I dreamed it would be. I’ve always loved deserts more than anything, but this desert was otherworldly to the next level. Don’t miss it if you ever go to Morocco.

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