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Camel Trek thru the Sahara and other Adventures

After we left Marrakesh, we overnighted in the tiny village of Ait Benhaddou.  There is a kasbah there that was used as a set for many movies, including “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Jesus of Nazereth”, “Jewel of the Nile” with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner,”The Mummy”, “Gladiator”, and “Alexander” with Colin Farrell; just to name a few. A kasbah is a place for the local leader to live and as a defense when the city was under attack.  It very much felt like we were walking onto a movie set.  We had to cross a small river on a donkey to get to the kasbah and once we got there, it was like stepping back into time 2000 years.  Every building was made of mud and there were very few traces of anything modern.  Every once in awhile, we would see a local selling a craft,  but even those were made the traditional way, by hand.  We climbed to the top and were rewarded with an amazing view of the sun setting  over the desert.

Then next day, we boarded the bus for the 8 hour drive to Merzouga.  The scenery was amazing, as we passed over the mountains.  Merzouga is a TINY village at the base of the Sahara Desert.  When we got to the lodge we were staying at, Chez Youssef Lodge (http://www.chezyoussef.com/En/Guest%20house.html), we arranged a tour for the next day.

The hospitality at the lodge was wonderful.  They were so friendly.  The bus got in at 9 pm and someone was waiting at the stop to greet us.  After dropping our bags off in the room, we were led to the dining room, where we were prepared a wonderful dinner.  The lodge is a small farmhouse made of mud and straw, with a bamboo and mud roof.  It was suprisingly pretty with handmade decorations, rugs, and fabrics.  They also made us a wonderful breakfast each day.  Not bad for around $35 a night.

The camel trek into the desert words cannot express.  Not even pictures can do it justice.  At 4:30 pm the guide showed up at our door, camels in tow, and away we went, just the three of us.  The sand dunes were a beautiful gold-orange color and they kept changing colors as the sun set.  We stopped halfway to the camp and watched the sun disappear behind the dunes.  Another time we stopped so the guide could pray to Allah (Muslims are serious about their prayer time).  Along the way, we talked a little, but then stopped to hear the silence.  Then all we could hear was the wind,  the camels feet in the sand, and our own breathing.  When we got to the camp, we were served a wonderful dinner and entertained us with music and singing, then we retired into our tent.  Since the tent was made of camel hair, we could still see the stars peeking through and feel the wind.  You have never seen a sky like one out in the middle of the Sahara Desert.

The next morning, we rose before the sun did and watched it come up over the desert.  Afterwards, we boarded our camels for the ride back to the lodge where they prepared us a wonderful breakfast.  This experience will certainly stay with me for a long, long time.

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