Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Morocco: Chapter 2 - The Sahara

Monday - Zagora to the Sahara
9 hours of sleep passed very quickly with only a brief interruption from the 5.30 call to prayer. I had forgotten nearly everything that our guide had told us about today, all I remembered was camels but I was prepared to just go with the flow and see what happened!

Off we went into the dunes!
We got back on the bus and drove for a little while till we arrived at another settlement, maybe a little larger than the last but still made from the traditional materials. This is a village that is known for its ceramics so we were taken on a tour by a very colourfully dressed guide. He showed us how the clay is made and shaped and then fired with all the different colours to make the different glazes. They use indigo to make blue, mint for green, henna gives red, and finally saffron, egg yolk and pomegranate seeds make yellow! It was all very interesting. Of course we were taken to the shop and invited to browse and itially I thought I would pick up something small and useful like a key bowl but that soon went out the window when I spotted some adorable little tea pots so now I have one of those instead. I'm pretty sure you cant use it as a teapot either but its adorable none the less.

All the colours!
We were also shown the mausoleum of... urm, someone important I guess, and you could knock on the door and make a wish. Apparently this guy was very smart and had collected a great many books so we went to see his book collection too. This was sadly all behind glass so there wasn't that excellent old book smell when you walked in. However on seeing what type of books they were I can understand why they need protecting. So many of them were very old and covered the beginnings of human understanding of maths, biology, astronomy, medicine, and many other topics. There was even a copy of the Quran that was over 1000 years old and written on gazelle skin!

Moving on we arrived for lunch in a hotel that we were strangely never going to stay in! This was one of the last buildings before the edge of the Sahara! More tagine and cous-cous and then we waited for the heat of the day to die down so that we could ride our camels (!) out to the Bedouin camp in the desert where we would be spending the night. The heat however had no intention of going anywhere and hung in the air stubbornly. Eventually we were called out to meet our camels. They're much bigger than I had thought! And much lumpier in gait too. Whoever looked at a camel and thought 'That looks comfy to ride long distances' was wrong, though I suppose its preferable to walking yourself. The trick is to sit further back in the saddle behind the hump with your legs bent. However they don't have stirups so your legs hang under their own weight which makes them sore after a while. We rode out in caravans of 4 and the views were amazing and well worth the lumpy bumpy ride!

Timbuktu 52 days by camel across the desert.... no thanks!
We arrived at our camp and was pleasantly surprised to find it had little huts, loos, and even a little running water! In the desert for goodness sake. We climbed a sand dune to watch the sunset into the dunes and it suddenly hit me; 4 days ago I was running round like a mad thing at work and here I was on a sand dune in the bloody Sahara desert having ridden a camel to get there! Madness.

Dinner of more tagine (shocker) and then the party started where the tribesmen and our group playing the drums and singing and dancing round the fire. This was all framed by the epicness of the stars as, with no light pollution, the milky way was in full view as it boldly blazed across the sky. We pulled the beds out from the little huts and slept on the sand under the stars and I wished I wasn't so tired so I could stay up later to watch them and take them all in. I did see a few shooting stars before I nodded off though which was a great treat.
Dancing into the night

Tuesday - Sahara to Ait Benhaddou
Woke up just before dawn so scurried up a dune to watch the sun rise. Again just as awesome as sunset though less sweaty and more sleepy. Everything was so still and quiet including ourselves as no one seemed willing to break the tranquility.

I'd had a near completely undisturbed night apart from needing to pee at one point and being glad that I had remembered 'Turn left at Sue to get to the loo' as I didn't want to wake anyone with a torch. Thankfully the oil lamps at the loos were still burning so I didn't need a light at all!

Back to the camels for the morning ride out of the desert and it was interesting to see where people hurt! Almost everyone's inner thighs hurt but some had lower back aches and even sore shoulders! I'm guessing that since I used to ride anyway I was spared from the sore back and shoulders that come from resisting an animals movement rather than rolling with it. I seemed to get either a comfier camel or I had desensitised to it this time as I had a significantly more pleasant ride. We arrived at another hotel we weren't staying at (a bit of a theme now) and didn't even have lunch this time however our guide had negotiated that we could use the showers so in rotations of 4 we all washed as much sand as possible out of as many places as possible! Then we started on a long day of driving stopping for lunch and snacks along the way.

When we arrived at our hotel (one we were actually using as a hotel not a restaurant or shower) I wasn't feeling well so I skipped most of dinner and spend a restless night getting very little sleep with my dreams making very little sense but leaving me confused and disorientated.

Again this feels like enough for one post.