RTW Trip Merzouga, Morocco Day 37: 2 Moroccans, 1 American, 1 Canadian, and a Therapist walk into a desert…
Waking up to a full Moroccan breakfast at Auberge Dunes D’Or energized us until dinner. We had some extra pastries and fruit for snacks before our trek. We were not going to leave on our camel trek until around 5pm, so we took a couple dips in the chilly pool, and caught up on some David Sedaris reading. While the hotel didn’t seem too busy, we ended up going on the trek with a Dutch family of five, two Moroccans from Tetouan, and Tom, a therapist from San Francisco traveling Morocco with a driver.
With the winds picking up, the sand was going everywhere. We were worried we would not be able to go. Even some of the heavy umbrellas and chairs tipped over in this wind. A few guides starting tying scarves on everyone’s heads… Arabic style. I felt a bit ridiculous, but the sand was was getting into every nook and cranny. Tying the scarves on our heads was for function. Even still, the sand managed to get in my hair, my eyebrows, my ears, shoes, and pockets.
Greg and I already did a camel trek in Jaisalmer, India, but this one in the Sahara was a nice change of pace. We were with a larger group, and our trek to the camp seemed really, really long. Many of the men were complaining how uncomfortable they were, as the constant pressure on a man’s crotch can take its toll. Despite the sandstorm like weather, the trek was serene and breathtakingly beautiful. The desert seemed endless.
Our guides did not ride on the camels, but led them by walking in front of them. They were definitely in shape as it seemed they were moving pretty fast in the deep sand without losing their breath. Clearly, some parts of the desert were well worn by travelers because the camel poop seemed to be everywhere. The barefoot guides often kicked the hard camel poop like a soccer ball.
Our guides were soft spoken yet social. This was something that seemed very new to us during our stay in Morocco. When we got back to the camp, the staff moved into the ‘kitchen tent’ to make our dinner. The rest of us sat around long tables with mint tea, on low tables and comfortable cushions. The Dutch family kept to themselves, so it was just me and the boys. It was fine though, as the Moroccan guys were so energetic, and Tom had a lot of interesting stories about travel, San Francisco, and his children in Brooklyn. Our conversations were funny, with a mishmash of English, French, Arabic, and even some Japanese.
I wasn’t expecting much in regards to the taste of the food, as we were out in the desert. We have had plenty of mediocre food in Morocco, so I thought the food out in the wilderness would have been bland. To our surprise, they served us THE BEST chicken tagine in Morocco. The meat was juicy, the vegetables were flavorful, and best of all, the dinner was served family style.
When the food was served, the cultural differences between the Moroccans and the North Americans were evident. Nobody quite knew who should be served first, and how we should be served. While living in Japan, I learned that usually the woman serves the food. One of the Moroccan guys looked at me, and I looked at him, and then he began to dish the food out onto the side plates. I then asked him what Moroccans usually do, and he motioned taking food with his right hand from the tagine pot directly to his mouth, without the use of the side plate. Eventually, everyone just started taking food the way they wanted to.
A plate of fruit came out for dessert. Tom and the Moroccan guys ate the pomegranate like apples. I took off each seed and put it in my mouth. Tom, the therapist, jokingly analyzed me a bit. Does it mean something if I eat a pomegranate seed one at a time???
After dinner, the staff began drumming and singing for us. They even managed to point out when the moon was rising. I think it was actually my first moonrise viewing!
We were all stuffed, happy, and ready for bed. On our desert trek in India, we literally slept under the stars. This camp had electricity, tents with sheets, and even a western toilet! It seemed like luxury compared to our previous trek. We got to bed early, as we knew we had to get up at the break of dawn. Surprisingly, I slept well!
Costs for Oct. 10
Camel trek 763 dirham
Total cost: 763 dirham / 2 = $42.57 per person
What I learned: Book your desert trek prior to arriving in Merzouga. I suggest booking with Auberge Dunes D’Or. Be sure to arrange them to pick you up from Rissani. As for the camel trek, do not worry if you think you will be in a sandstorm. It died down after an hour, and if you have a scarf handy, it provides a lot of protection!
Actual date of travel: Oct. 10, 2014