Southern Moroccan Excursion

by Andrew Stein

Sand dunes in the Western Sahara

While still in Istanbul, Adam and I heard stories from other travelers of the various treks in southern Morocco, and soon after entering our Riad, we found a poster with photos of camels, sand dunes, and Berber villages. Convincing us to go may have been one of the easiest sells that the Riad had to do.

Ait Benhaddou

Our route took us from Ait Benhaddou to Ouarzazate to La Vallee des Roses to Les Gorges de Dades, where we spent the first night. The second day we traveled to Les Gorges de Todra, then to Merzouga, and finally took camels to the middle of the desert in Bivouac, where we spent the second night. The final day we had a long journey back to Marrakech.

In the Berber village, we all received the hard sell in a traditional home for a handmade rugs. After a couple rounds of tea, getting to know the Berber family, and eventually being shown many colorful rugs, I found one that I liked, bargained the price down, and made a semi-impulsive buy.

Berber rug maker

Later in the journey, the western Sahara lived up to expectations. The sand dunes looked like ocean waves, except that they begged to be climbed. And with one high-reaching dune next to our camp site tempting the group to climb it, we couldn’t resist. About half way up the dune, we realized that this was going to be more difficult that we originally assessed. For each step upward, we slipped slightly downwards as well. And as I eventually starting crawling up the mountain because of its increasing slope, each planted claw would cause a miniature land slide just around it. Eventually, one of the group members, a physically fit individual from Argentina reached the top of the hill giving me a clear target to reach. I summit the hill while I am well out of breath and inspired by the surrounding sand in every direction.

Preparing the camels

The night ends with me on a thin mattress covered by a blanket staring up at constellations unfaded by street lights or even by the moon. The slight breeze against my face felt perfect as I drifted off to sleep.

Sahara Sky

The Big Dipper puts me to sleep in the Western Sahara.