Sahara Desert in a Sand Storm Day 3 – near Merzouga, Morocco
Today is an important day in Morocco.
It ended Ramadan last night and it is like their Christmas Day.
Everyone dresses up, they go to the mosque, and they have a big celebration meal. Then lots go on holiday. Gee – sounds like Australia, except for the mosque part. It feels like Australia at Christmas too – hot!
So we see lots of locals dressed up and walking along the road.
Here they gather at the mosque they sit in their hundreds and as our van goes by, I madly try to get a photo.
So in fact I click madly with the camera, and it is a pretty great to see this.
Most of the youth look bored.
So this is a few of the photos.
It is interesting to see the women all lined up on the side here – completely separate from the men.
The lands change frequently. It is dry, then mountainous, and then there is some green and plantations. It is a real mix.
Here you can see some of the fertile fields below.
The women of the area are a sight to behold. Not only are they dressed in their finest, they also have henna patterns on the palms of their hands.
A lot of the women have netting and lace on them and it is almost bride like.
And then there are the men with their fez hats and kaftans. All in creams and whites and most with white or traditional yellow slip on shoes.
The younger men where a long shirt like white kaftan too. They usually wear sandals or sneakers on their feet.
One thing I learn is that the beggars go from door to door and ask for money at Ramadan. Often when people don’t fast they have to give to the poor and catch up later, so now is a good time to be a beggar. I had noticed and given to one of the ladies outside a mosque, as they were there each night.
We stop at Tinghir where there is a co-operative. We have the garden explained and the guy is lovely. He picks us figs, so we wash and eat them on our journey.
The garden path is tight, and we squeeze past the locals on their way out to celebrations.
As we walk along Explorason finds a new little friend! We ask to take a photo but he is shy.
We arrive at a carpet co-operative for divorced, widowed and abused women so we are told, and we are all welcomed.
We all start to drink and they forget the sugar, so they just get everyones glasses of part drunk tea, and pour it back in the pot. Add the sugar and reserve. Classic.
I buy a small rug. I am told by Explorafriend the man said it is camel wool. I know camels only get shaved every 3 years, and the dies are all from natural plants and minerals.
There is an absence of the middle part of the process. Where are the wool bails; the skeins of coloured wools; the dye baths and the weaving looms?
I have noticed in Morocco all the men seem to get along well with Explorason. They let him wear their Fez hats. They are always asking him to stay. Or calling him Abdul or making a joke. It is nice and makes him real special.
We try to have a group photo, but I know a few are missing, and after about the 5th attempt, we laugh and give up.
Then something starts at lunch time. Winds pick up. Sand blows and awning shake as we try to eat. We wait and Explorason is concerned. As we drive into the storm it is pretty freaky, and at times it is thicker than fog. It is getting to late afternoon and we pass through a town. The sand is blowing all over the place.
I see a little toddler girl run out with black curly pigtails, and a pink top, and as she does her Daddy comes with open arms and picks her up and hugs her. He holds her and keeps her safe. I have no camera to capture the moment but it is in my mind forever.
It reminds me that God will take care of us in this storm. I feel more relaxed.
When we get to the hotel I have to say we had some challenges. The staff raced us around and then we sat and waited. I bought three litres of water and wish in hindsight I had bought four. I had a heavy backpack with the water, and the staff wanted me to wear it jolting up and down on a camel. I refused. Last time we had saddle baskets. This group had nothing. I have to say every single thing in my bag was used. We finally saw the sandstorm abate, and we were allied to the camels.
As we went off the sand whipped my face, and was in my eyes and teeth, dispute having the head scarf.
We rode on and this time with the sand stinging our hands as we held on.
It was a much softer ride. The orange sand cushioned the steps of the camel, where in the last desert it was a more thumping step. Here it was a softer step, and at times even a slippery step for the camel.
After nearly two hours it grew dark. The drivers walked on. One was a younger boy, and I thought he would grow to a handsome man and felt for him. What a life compared to my son. When my son asked how much longer they joked “we are lost”. It really was NOT funny. We walked on into the darkness and by now I was concerned. We had started out late because of a sandstorm, but this was now a different story.
Now it is pitch black. Have you ever ridden a camel in pitch black at the end of a sand storm in the Sahara Desert? It is NO fun. A rope connects my son’s camel to mine. I have no flashlight, and it must be 9:30 p.m.
We arrive and the staff give us little greeting. Candles are in the dining tent and the rest is pitch black. There is no toilet. No way to find your stuff. We are told to put it under a chair and sleep outside. This is a way different camp. But you must remember these are poor people. They have been in a sand storm in the heat f the day and niceties are gone.
I smartly gather my things in the corner of the dining room tent. In my opinion if there was one sand storm there could well be another. I change to shorts, and it is hot.
We are served dinner. There is one plate and Explorafriend gets that. You eat Moroccan style and use the bread to mop up the rice. Now this is definitely the tastiest Tarjine I have had in all of Morocco – even with a slight sandy crunch to it.
As soon as dinner is over everyone grabs a mattress and a pillow and goes to bed outside. This is weird. It is late. There are no sheets or pillow cases. But there are blankets. I have water to wash and to clean our teeth so we set to and we wander with the camera to find a place to relieve ourselves. I guess this is really the way it happens in the desert.
I find my sarongs and scarves and place them down over the pillows and mattresses to protect us. I make sure all our belongings are in the tent and my bag is hidden under the blankets. This is nothing like our camp two nights ago. This is more like wild camping.
I’m really glad I left most of our things in the ding tent as at about 3 a.m. the sandstorm starts again. We grab our beds and move in to the Berber tent. It is so stuffy and there is no air. It is so hot, and you can hear the sand whip against the sides.
Information on where to purchase a Berber Rug:
Maison de Tissage des Tapis Berérs a La kassba