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Sounds and images from the Sahara Desert (Morocco part 3)

21 March, 2011 (09:57) | Living in Europe | By: admin

Passing Berber villages on the way to the Sahara Desert

For Mark’s big (50th) birthday we hire a private driver to take us to the Sahara desert where we are to rent 2 camels and a Berber camel guide for a 2 hour trek through the desert to our Bedouin tent, where we are to spend the night. There is not much narrative to this trip, mainly images. I take shots from the car window on the 5 hour drive to Oarzazate, through the Atlas mountains, on the other side of a tremendous ridge of the Anti-Atlas and into the (river) Draa Valley, 125 km of date palm oases which eventually merge into the Sahara in the vilage f M`hamid, where our camels await us.

1 & 2 – Berber villages along the drive to and past Oarzazate.

3) Moroccans are good at building walls 4) Atlas countryside.

1 & 2 – Oases/River Draà 3&4) Berber village below

We finally arrive at our camel station a few hours before sunset, and thus our 2 hour camel ride to our tent in the dunes:

snippet of the 2 hour camel ride to our private tent.

The trip to our tent is fraught with growing shadows. We are living in an alien landscape…

Picturesque paysage, and a lone passerby on our camel trek.

This short clip shows just how undulous it is to ride a camel:

The colors of the desert landscape are something I will never forget.

We finally arrive at our private tent before sunset:

Self portrait in tent shadow 2) Happy Big Birthday Mark!!!

A bedouin campground we later walk to. 2) My camel, poetic with the desert background colors

Once in our tent we realize that we have been provided with multiple blankets and also an aromatic meal is brought to us by a hired Berber cook, who speaks not a word of English but is visibly happy to see us devour the simple and satisfying tangia style meal he has prepared. Its mind-boggling that such a delicious and tasty meal can be made with rudimentary tools. There is no electricity, no modern amenities out here – we are far from everything we know.

If we weren’t such fortunate people, it would be easy to imagine a dark, dangerous story alá Paul Bowles, where we are kidnapped and later drugged, robbed and left for dead in the desert… but of course, this is just my nihilist imagination. The truth is, this is the happiest, most uniquely serene location to spend Mark’s birthday. And it is safe. We see no scorpions, snakes, vultures, nothing scary. The only inconvenience is the extreme cold once the sun disappears. The temperature becomes almost unbearably cold. We literally put on all our clothes plus we each wrap ourselves up in a blanket provided in the tent. We brave the elements to watch the amazing star show. Despite the discomfort of our freezing fingertips and noses, we are having a blast.

Ironically, we are both equipped with audio recorders, unwittingly thinking the desert would be full of wild animal sounds rather than the complete silence ringing in our ears. There are other camel trek campers out in the dunes, but not near us. We feel very alone, blessed, but cold.

Later, when we hear the sound of drums and singing coming from a campground in the distance we follow our ears to the following scene:

So this is how they keep warm at night:

Who would have thought we’d find a birthday party for Mark on his birthday, in the middle of the Moroccan Sahara desert.

I think I’ll end this blog on this theme, Berber drums and dancers and singers… all gathered around a campfire to celebrate Mark’s 50th.

1) Sunrise 2) Happy man

As the night progresses the music gets sloppier and we head back to our cozy tent. Happy Birthday Mark, December 29, 2010!