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a weekend in the desert

13 September, 2010

Our group, plus four students from Qalam wa Lawh spent four days in the desert this past weekend, and had our Eid Al-Fitr holiday there.

The food:  I had a number of veggie tagines, and lots and lots of bread.  Salade Marocaine (typically diced tomato, onion and bell pepper with a little salt, pepper, oil and maybe a dash of vinegar) seemed to show up quite a bit as well.  Those who ate meat had much of the same, but including kefta or chicken.  I had been told to bring my own food because its not always easy to accommodate vegetarians, but found that I was actually eating better this weekend than I had the week prior in Rabat.

The folks:  This trip proved to be a great way to get to know everyone better, and has brought us all a lot closer.  I enjoyed climbing up the dunes, late at night, with a local kitten at my heels, to chat with my new friends and enjoy the amazing view of the stars.  Spending about 24 hours in a van with everyone also gave us plenty of opportunity to laugh and bond over installments of one person’s personal telenovela.  All of this was only heightened by the fact that no one slept more than three hours a night, and at one point, one of our crew was forced to wear an eye patch.  Naturally, hilarity ensued.

The fun:   Our first night, we stayed at Hotel El Ati in the town of Erfoud, where we enjoyed having the entire hotel to ourselves (more or less) and a fantastic pool and terrace.  It was there that we celebrated one person’s birthday with local pastries, and all in all, enjoyed our time there.  The next day, we headed out to the desert where we purchased scarves to wrap as turbans, saw an Amazigh homesite and later got on our camels to head out to a camp in the dunes.  Riding a camel was less-than-comfortable, but definitely a neat experience to have had.  While at camp, we tried to sing songs around the campfire but only managed the chorus or opening line of many different attempts.  Ho-hum.  We also played a “Berber game” which involved being assigned numbers, calling out a number at random, asking that person if they like this or that, to which they always said yes, asking them “how much?” and then using the numerical value they stated to pick the next person in the game.. good times, good times.  I slept near the campfire that night so I could be under the stars, and early the next morning, we mounted our camels, returned to the edge of the desert and showered at an auberge where we also had breakfast.  The rest of our trip included some live Gnawa music and “Berber pizza” for the meat eaters, and more veggie tagine for me, trips to a famous kasbah and mausoleum in Merzouga, and finally, a stop in the beautiful city of Ifrane while on our way back to Rabat.

G.O.A.T. in the Sahara

an Amazigh tent

Fulbright camel train

Saharan sunset

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