February 22, 2019

Cubed®️ Travel Journal: Sahara

Africa ›   Morocco ›  

By Stephen Eng (see also 106th Stopped Pick-Pocket: Marrakesh Market Hand Shake!)

Experiencing the sunset while sitting on a sand dune in the Sahara is what drew me to Morocco. Based in Marrakesh, we discovered delicious food, vibrant colors, friendly people, wonderful scents, and a countryside framed by beautiful mountains and picturesque deserts. There is so much to do and see, that in our short stay, we opted for the bustle of Marrakesh and the solitude of the Sahara.

We start our journey from the Riad Abaca Badra in Marrakesh. Our driver, Ali, would take us on this 3 day / 2 night tour into the Sahara. The High Atlas Mountains greeted us as we left the city. You know, I never knew what a casbah was until he brought us to the Kasbah de Talouat. You hear about one in the song “Rock the Casbah” and I never knew what it meant. The drive is about 11-13 hours and to break it up we arrive at Ait Ben Haddou, which has been used as a backdrop for movies, including one of my favorites, Gladiator. After a bit of exploring, we head to our Riad in Zagora for a home-cooked meal.

Day two and our journey continues to the great dunes of Erg Chigaga via Zagora, Draa Valley, and M’gamid El Ghezlane. At noon, we (finally) arrive at the Sahara Desert! Sitting in the car one way for 14 total hours while engaging in great conversation with our driver was well worth the sore back and butt. Upon checking into our tents, we are treated to a wonderful lunch before heading out to take a camel ride as the sun is low on the horizon. It’s like riding a horse but at a slower and more steady pace. After thirty minutes, we get to the base of a huge dune. As we walk up the side, the vast desert comes into view, and we experience the tranquility of the a glorious sunset.

For the next two hours, sitting alongside my buddy, Manny, we are able to take in the full beauty of the desert. The temperature was a perfect 64 F and there was no wind to blow sand in my face. Sitting in the Sahara with no cell service was a blessing. This gave me the time to live in the moment and reflect as I watched the sunset inch by inch. It also allowed me to escape the hustle and bustle of Marrakesh where I have a foiled pick-pocket story to share because of my travel pick-pocket pants! Experiencing this moment made me realize that if I want to do more of this, I would have to sacrifice other things and I am totally OK with that.

When the sun finally sets, we head back to camp by camel for dinner. A great meal by a local family is shared with just the five of us campers present. We exchange conversations and laughs at the campfire with traditional Berber music to the background of stars. When the fire starts to die, we head back to the tents to sleep under seven blankets for warmth in the mild cold-of-night in the desert.

In the morning, we have breakfast before making the journey back to Marrakesh. Driving through Lake Iroquois, Foum Zguid, Tazenakht, and the High Atlas Mountains, eight hours later we make it to Marrakesh.

Bucket lists are great to have. My top five is to walk the ruins of Machu Picchu, snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, experience the Uyuni Salt Flats, hike Patagonia, and camp in the Sahara Desert. The journey of a lifetime is finally over but it will be ingrained in my memory forever. I’m glad to have checked it off with my travel buddy, Manny.