The Morocco Diaries, Part 4 of 10: Erfoud

Erfoud, Morocco: When a sunset   camel ride on the sand dunes of the Sahara Desert doesn't go as planned... by Posh, Broke, & Bored

Desert Storm: of sunsets and storms on the sand dunes of the Sahara...


It’s the journey, not the destination, that matters. At least, that’s what I console myself when my plans don’t go my way. I had come to the edge of the Sahara desert to ride, for the first time, on camels as the sun set on the sand dunes. A fairly reasonable request given the desert’s proclivity for blazing sunsets or at least dryness. However - as I would find out after a long and arduous journey - the bizarre and the unexpected have a tendency to follow me around the world...

Erfoud, Morocco: When a sunset   camel ride on the sand dunes of the Sahara Desert doesn't go as planned... by Posh, Broke, & Bored

After a hectic day spent navigating the maze-like Medina of Fez, rising at dawn to make my way to the next destination seemed like a special kind of punishment. Especially as the drive from Fez to Erfoud would take 9 hours (including breaks) over 500 kilometres. I would’ve have napped throughout; but some of the scenery was too beguilling to sleep on. The long drive took me through a mostly barren landscape, but every now and then a winding road would reveal an unexpected treasure - oases of dazzling turquoise and lush green palms - and a number of equally surprising crystalline streams carving themselves out of a bed of stones as they made their way down the High Atlas Mountains.

I passed through the Ziz Gorges, Ziz Valley, and Zaabal tunnel, stopping for lunch at Midelt. It became clear, from the foreign-run guest houses, that this otherworldly natural setting attracted hikers and campers. Aside from these visitors it seemed that the population were mostly a mix of Arabic and Berber people. I learnt that my destination, Erfoud, is Morocco’s capital of fossils, especially ammonite. Tables made of or inlaid with fossils are considered the height of elegance. The street sellers who linger on highways to sell crystals and such indicate the national fondness for natural stones, as did the multitude of shops with rows of fossils of stones laid outside to entice.

Upon finally reaching our kasbah in Erfoud, I had less than an hour to freshen up and prepare myself for the next leg of my adventure. I was to travel to the edge of the Sahara Desrt, to a particular spot that was about 45 kilometres from Algeria. Precautions had to be taken - before hopping into an SUV our hosts expertly tied headscarves, the ends of which should be wrapped around our noses and mouths to protect from the relentless sand. Naturally, I flung the end of my scarf off my face: my lipstick is too expensive, and I didn’t endure the heaviest hoop earrings to have them hidden.

The drive through the desert in a convoy of SUVs was...eventful. You’ll have to imagine a dozen SUVs playing dodgeball with each other, as I was too busy clinging on for dear life to capture any of it. I caught my breath when we stopped to meet a nomadic family. It was interesting to hear about how they couldn’t see themselves living any other way; instead choosing to roam with their livestock wherever the wind and weather took them.

They say that animals have an instinct that can sense natural changes that humans are oblivious to. I should have known, when the goats rushed back from the fields on their own back to base camp, that the weather was going to take a turn for the worse.

...and so it did. By the time we reached the edge of the Sahara, the sun was beginning to set yet the skies were not a fiery red but a cloudy pink. Lo and behold, and it began to rain. Hard.

Rain on the Sahara, what are the odds? It was the first time this year, apparently. The Sahara is the world's 3rd largest desert after Antarctica and the Arctic.  Although the Sahara is one of the most arid locations on Earth, its not uniformly so. The central part of the Sahara (the Libyan Desert) receives 0.0338 inches of rain per year (sometimes going without rain for decades at a time) while other parts of the desert are endowed with up to a whooping 4 inches of annual rainfall. And yet, on the very occasion that I would ride a camel through the sand dunes for the very first time, the Sahara was blessed with a downpour that would completely obscure any chance of seeing a sunset! I was immediately reminded of Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia, around the same time last year. That day, for the first time in a dangerously hot summer a vicious storm broke up, the temperature plunged to 10c (in August!) and I nearly drowned trying to make my way out of Croatia’s most famous beauty spot.

I refused to brave a desert storm to ride an increasingly irritated camel on the dunes for an hour with no chance of a sunset. My first ever ride on the sand dunes would have to be an experience for another time.

Erfoud, Morocco: When a sunset   camel ride on the sand dunes of the Sahara Desert doesn't go as planned... by Posh, Broke, & Bored

On the plus side, I got to play out my Vogue Arabia cover girl fantasy with the Kate Spade lantern-shaped handbag that I brought for this occasion. Have you ever had a well-laid plan go unexpectedly awry? How did you cope with the disappointment? Was your face as long as a camel’s?


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