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Students Experience An African Camel Trek Adventure In Morocco

Written by:  Amy Anderson and Nikki Comer (Students)

Before we got to Morocco, one thing was certain. Our African adventure needed to include a camel. So when an opportunity presented itself, we jumped the chance and headed through the Atlas Mountains into the desert. After eight hours in a cramped and boiling hot van, the Sahara Desert was finally beneath our feet. We went to the sink to wet our turbans for our sure to be boiling hot trek. The guides showed us to our new mode of transportation, camels.

Getting on the camels was a shaky affair, it is like a one-man teeter-totter… you’re up and then you’re down and then finally up on all four legs. After everyone was semi-secure on their camels, we headed deep into the desert. Following several photo-shoots of camels and sand dunes and more camels and sand dunes, the sun began to set, and the most amazing shades of red and orange were upon us. The shadows from the setting sun emphasized each sand ripple made from the wind on the dunes. It was a complete and total cliché movie moment. It was perfect.

We arrived to a nomadic camp. Really, it was a bunch of rugs laid out on the sand and a makeshift tent. So we plopped right down on one of the rugs and wondered what was supposed to happen next. After about 20 minutes of looking around in awe of our complete and utter solitude in the desert, our eyes landed on a snowboard. So naturally, we picked that board right up and ran 20 feet up the massive sand dune next to our camp. Not wanting to test our skills at sand boarding down the near vertical slope, we decided to sled down. All three of us piled on and laughed the whole way down the dune. After a few runs, we realized it was time for dinner. We sat on our rug with an Italian couple and shared a meal. We literally shared the meal… five forks, one plate. It was a delicious tajine/couscous/rice/onion mix that disappeared within minutes.

Because of Ramadan, we felt bad eating or drinking around our driver, so we were literally starving when the food came out. After wolfing it down, the Berber people began playing music on their bongos. When they realized we were finished eating, they pulled us up and made us dance…. And dance we did! It was an odd mixture of stomping, clapping, growling, and Red Rover… but it was so much fun. We were laughing and stomping and growling right along with them for probably close to an hour.

After that, we watched storm clouds roll in over the stars and the lightning begin. It was absolutely beautiful. You could see the lightning crack just over the dunes, making our experience that much more surreal. Really, who gets to see it rain in the Sahara Desert? When the Berber people saw we were admiring the thunderstorm just over the dune, they decided we should walk up it. Since it was about midnight, it was pretty difficult to tell just how high it was… everyone made it about 10 minutes up before they started dropping like flies. When we slowed down, a Berber man would literally grab your hand, stick it under his armpit, and drag you up to the top. We were huffing and puffing, so they eventually had mercy and let us rest for a few minutes. It was much higher than we ever imagined. When we finally got to the summit, we noticed it was only the three of us and our new Berber friends. We sat at the ridge of the dune and gazed out in awe. It was the highest sand dune in the area, so we had an amazing view of the desert and bordering Algeria. We then talked about life, love, and everything in between. We were shocked that they knew so many languages; Berber, Arabic, French, English, Spanish, Italian. They were equally shocked we only knew one. It’s strange to think that after so many years of higher education, we can only speak one language. It has only been necessary in our lives to use English, but for them they need to know it all. They make a living acclimating to a variety of languages, while we expect others to change for us. It was an eye opening conversation that changed our perspective on a nomadic lifestyle.

Since the dune was quite steep climbing up, we were confused as to how we would safely get down. The Berber men came up to us, grabbed our hands, and started running. It was an exhilarating and exciting moment, full of laughter and lots of sand. When we got back to the rugs, we stargazed and drifted off to sleep.

Our 4:15 wake up call came all too soon. We had a quick breakfast of bread and jam and packed up our belongings. We hopped on our camels, which we dubbed Harold, Wallie, and Pasquilito, and toddled back to civilization with the African sun rising behind us.

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