How Do You Say, “I love you, Camel,” in Arabic?
After several days in Marrakesh I decided I needed a relaxing break, so I booked a 3 day trip to the desert with a local tour group geared towards backpackers. What was not relaxing was the total of 28 hours we spent stuffed in a mini bus with 11 other people…no A/C. The good side of that was I made great friends out of a group that barely spoke the same languages. Comic relief came from a guy named Paolo; our very own Roberto Benigni; dice games with a German guy named Martin; and some serious haggling between our French friend Philippe and a Berber rug salesman. Little did the Berbers know Philippe sells rugs in France for a living.
Finally at sunset on the second day we reached the desert and mounted our trusted camels. I named mine Humphrey. Our guide Mubara decided that the worst camel should be put in front and that I should lead the group on him. Luckily Humphrey was behaving that day and we set off with the French, Germans, English, and Italians trailing behind. It was like a very arid United Nations summit.
If you have never seen the Sahara it is totally awe-inspiring. The color and enormity are unlike anything we could have imagined. The dunes were like butterscotch waves, a dream world of pudding at a picnic and we were tiny ants clamoring out of breath to climb up to watch the sunset.
After rolling down the dunes (great fun) we stared at the star-filled sky, seemingly billions more than in Brooklyn where I live. We were served traditional and steaming Berber tagine, a stew with vegetables and chicken, bread and the traditional mint tea, and fresh oranges and watermelon.
Our stomachs full, we all took a piece of the outdoor rugs and bundled up with blankets to sleep outside beneath the stars. Two hours later, I struggled to breathe between mouthfulls of sand. I tried to suck it up, but how much sand does the American Academy of Dentists recommend? I grabbed our blankets and dove into the tents, from which I could hear the wind howling all night, the constant burping of the camels, and kittens purring as they climbed all over my face. I slept maybe 30 minutes.
But as their PR people say, one does not go to the Sahara for a good nights sleep…Mubara woke us at 4 a.m. to begin the trip back. I got a better camel on the way back, but he wasn’t as smooth a ride as Humphrey, my butt hurt A LOT and, three camels back, the view wasn’t as good. I guess it’s like they always say: you just dont know how good a camel you’ve got till you get put on one that hurts more.