It’s easy to make memories while travelling, but harder to create ones that will truly stay etched in your mind forever. However, riding a camel through the Sahara desert is something I know I won’t forget in a hurry.
It was around 5pm when we left our villa on the outskirts of the Sahara, to set off in search of our desert camp, via individual camels. Leaving any earlier would have meant unbearable heat, I was told by my Topdeck travel guide at the time. Plus, we needed to cover up and protect ourselves in case of a sandstorm. Contact lens wearers were advised to forgo them in favor of glasses. Cameras had to be wrapped up -- as did we.
“Ok! Yallah!” our guide shouted as we gathered around him, clutching bundles of long material, or scarves we’d bought in souks, which were fashioned into turbans atop our heads, one by one. Yallah, meaning “come on” or “let’s go” was an Arabic word I’d come to hear a lot of throughout my time in Morocco. And I was so ready to go and explore the desert.
We approached our camels, which were in a line and attached to each other with ropes, and I was shown by another guide how to mount them correctly (camel fur was softer than I thought, albeit a little matted). After getting comfortable, we took off into the Arabian sands.
As our camels clambered over sprawling sand dunes, I realized that all that stretched in front of me was miles and miles of scorched orange. Piles of sand as far as the eye could see, shaped and moulded by the winds, into towering peaks and melting mountains. It was breathtaking.
It was hard to stay balanced on the hump of the camel and take all the photos that my social media required of me. And it was hot, but comfortably so. After 30 minutes or so, we reached the Merzouga desert camp where we found glamorous tents lined with colourful Moroccan carpets and equipped with comfortable beds.
Casual turban selfie. I actually spent part of last week riding a camel in the Sahara, and it was one of the best travel experiences I've ever had in my 24 years lol When I left home a year ago I didn't imagine these kind of opportunities would present themselves to me so thanks to @topdecktravel for making it happen & if anyone is interested in Morocco travel or working remotely, DM or email me because now I'm London-bound I'll have lots of time to reply. If you have travel ambitions, make 2017 the year that you realize them, it's never too late. #ultimate49
Our guide advised us to dump our overnight bag and head straight out into the dunes to catch the last of the sunset as it melted into the sands -- and the steep, vigorous 15-minute hike was totally worth the effort. Once we reached the top of the dune, our only duty was to bask in the warm glow of the orange sun and take photos, as the marmalade sunshine faded away and the earth gradually cooled beneath our feet.
The walk down the hill was far easier. We returned eager to fill our bellies and excited to enjoy our night among the Berber people (Morocco’s dominant ethnic group), who ran the camp. As the darkness approached, traditional Moroccan food was served in ornate, brightly colored bowls; chicken tagine, spiced rice, salad and tasty flat-bread.
What better way to get to the heart of a country than to explore the cuisine? Morocco is famous for its tagine (a meat stew with prunes, nuts and spices) as well as its pastille (a sweet pastry filled with meat). So far, I've tried both and my @topdecktravel guide is showing me the best eating spots which is just as well because I need to sample *everything* #ultimate49
The evening’s entertainment involved live drumming music from the Berber people beneath the stars and we all joined in -- until a gust of strong wind forced us to retreat back to the dining tent.
The next morning we were up at dawn (i.e. 5.30 am!) to catch the sunset on our camel ride back to our villa. I remember feeling so privileged to bear witness to those first few slithers of golden sunshine that snaked their way over the glistening dunes of the Sahara. I wondered: How many others will get to see this in their life-time? All of us were quiet in collective appreciation for the morning view -- the only sound was the soft meshing of the sand beneath the camel’s hooves.
Georgina Lawton is a 24-year old blogger and writer from London who enjoys dancing bachata and embracing lesser known travel experiences. Follow her around the world at: www.girlunfurled.com and stalk her Instagram: @girlunfurled