Sahara Desert in a Sandstorm is scary

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Exploramum and Explorason – Sandstorm approaching

Sahara Desert in a Sand Storm Day 3 – near Merzouga, Morocco

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Exploramum and Explorason – camel riding

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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.

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Exploramum and Explorason – end of Ramadan

Here they gather at the mosque they sit in their hundreds and as our van goes by, I madly try to get a photo.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Ramadan worship at the Mosque #1

So in fact I click madly with the camera, and it is a pretty great to see this.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Ramadan worship at the Mosque #2

Most of the youth look bored.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Ramadan worship at the Mosque #3

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.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Ramadan worship at the Mosque #4

We go through many towns and the sky is azure blue – stunning.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Desert town

The lands change frequently. It is dry, then mountainous, and then there is some green and plantations. It is a real mix.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Desert and mountains merge

Here you can see some of the fertile fields below.

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Exploramum and Explorason – lush valley

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.

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Exploramum and Explorason – henna hands

A lot of the women have netting and lace on them and it is almost bride like.

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Exploramum and Explorason – veil lace and net robes

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.

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Exploramum and Explorason – traditional Fez caps and kaftans

The younger men where a long shirt like white kaftan too.  They usually wear sandals or sneakers on their feet.

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Exploramum and Explorason – shirt kaftans

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.

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Exploramum and Explorason – beggar

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.

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Exploramum and Explorason – eating figs

The garden path is tight, and we squeeze past the locals on their way out to celebrations.

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Exploramum and Explorason – meeting with the locals

This lady is all decorated, and Explorason takes her photo as she shows her hennaed hand. Again she wears the white curtain wrap.

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Exploramum and Explorason – dressed for Ramadan

As we walk along Explorason finds a new little friend! We ask to take a photo but he is shy.

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Exploramum and Explorason – a boy in traditional robe and cap

We arrive at a carpet co-operative for divorced, widowed and abused women so we are told, and we are all welcomed.

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Exploramum and Explorason – learning about the weaving of carpets

Mint tea is served.

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Exploramum and Explorason – drinking mint tea

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.

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Exploramum and Explorason – the call this the Picasso of the desert

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.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Explorason gets along well with Morocco men

We then head to a gorge where ladies are washing. Kids are bathing. Donkeys are drinking. Old men are begging.

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Exploramum and Explorason – locals wash at the gorge

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.

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Exploramum and Explorason – our group

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.

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Exploramum and Explorason – the sandstorm begins

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.

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Exploramum and Explorason – starting the dusk camel ride

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.

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Exploramum and Explorason – sand eating

We rode on and this time with the sand stinging our hands as we held on.

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Exploramum and Explorason – riding through the end of the sand storm


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.

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Exploramum and Explorason – look no hands Mum

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.

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Exploramum and Explorason – it is getting dark

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.

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Exploramum and Explorason – riding blind in the dark

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.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Dinner in the Bedouin tent

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.

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Exploramum and Explorason – sleeping under the stars

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.

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Exploramum and Explorason – the Bedouin Tents

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.


Wait to see what tomorrow holds – check out our next blog.

Information on where to purchase a Berber Rug:

Maison de Tissage des Tapis Berérs a La kassba

Avant les Gorges de Todgha
Chez Elbahaoui Mohamed
45800 Tinghir
GSM: 0668.76.30.91
Tour Company used:
Smart Travel.
This was booked in Marrakech and the man booking it was lovely.
Highly recommend them for the start of the tour to Zagora only and suggest a different company for the Sahara Desert as the camp conditions were extreme

 

 

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