Our trip to the Sahara desert started early on a Thursday morning, while the sun was just barely grazing the sky. The drive was long, as we knew it would be, a grueling ten hours with thankfully several breaks in between. Pit stops consisted of cafes with ice cream and our favorite Moroccan sodas, perfect for the tiring heat we were soon to face. We stopped for lunch at a beautiful garden along the way, with cats idling in the courtyard and a beautiful beef and prune tagine.
The rest of the drive passed easily, and we arrived at Efroud that night for a dinner that was, yet again, a beef and prune tagine. The hotel was gigantic, but since it was the off-season, there was barely anyone there except for our group. As we arrived, we were greeted by a man playing traditional gnawa music and serving us traditional mint tea. The best part of the hotel was the gigantic pool right outside the lobby that we had all to ourselves. It was a fun way to destress, swimming alongside all our friends and our professors, plus a perfect way to cool down from the stinging desert air.
We had a slow morning the next day, complete with more swimming, a traditional Moroccan breakfast, and feeling the heat rise all around us. At noon we left for a scarf shop to buy for the desert (don’t worry, I came prepared) and then stopped at a mausoleum that held the body of the current King’s great-grandfather. It was a beautiful sight, with a gorgeous mosque and sprawling garden that we wandered in for a while before stopping for lunch at a nearby restaurant. The food in the south was similar in dish to the food in the north, but different in composition. It was very interesting to taste the regional differences in spices and styles.
We then made our way to a small riad on the edge of the desert. Inside, we saw a traditional gnawa performance, learned about the various musical instruments used in the music style, and even learned some gnawa dances. As we stepped out, we were greeted by three jeeps to take us to a part of the desert no tour bus could go.
The jeep ride was fantastic, listening to traditional music and looking out at the dunes as far as the eye could see. There was a lot of wind that day, which kept the heat down but also blew sand in our faces and made the sky a menacing gray cloud of dust. The jeep tore through the desert, quick as a whip, until we arrived at our tents for the evening. Tents, I would say, is a vast understatement, as they had two queen beds, a toilet, a sink, and a shower. The cool running water was a godsend in the oppressive heat, but we wouldn’t be able to stay for long, as it was finally time for our camel ride.
The camels came right up to our tents, and we hopped on and headed deep into the desert. Being atop the camels was a blessing in disguise, as less of the torrid winds were able to reach my eyes, which burned from sand constantly whipping in. A scarf covered my head, nose, and mouth, but still, the sand found its way through. These slight discomforts were far outweighed by the experience of seeing the Sahara with my own eyes, a top one of my absolute favorite animals (I did a report on camels in the second grade and haven’t let it go since).
As we returned, exhausted, we were met with another glorious dinner of beef and prune tagine! It was delicious, of course, and we followed the evening’s festivities with card games in the cool night air. The wind had finally started to die down, and above us hung a moon full as a date. The scene was something out of a picture book, immortalized as the dunes whispering silently in the shadows.
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Zoe Carver is a second-year student of International Affairs and Peace Studies at the George Washington University, minoring in French and Creative Writing. She is originally from Portland, Oregon and is apart of GW's Literary Magazine, Model UN team, and Student Climate Coalition. She just finished a positon interning in the United States Senate, and has a deep love for crocheting.