As the students arrived to the camp and dismounted their camels a group of nomads dressed in white went out to welcome them with Moroccan music. It was immediately reminiscent of our experience at Chez Ali the evening prior but these people looked far more interested in being there in comparison. Some Berber tribe/nomadic people set up the camp. This camp was a mixture of 3 large dining tents and 30 smaller tents each sleeping 6 people. It was literally a small village for about 200 people. They even set up a bathroom/shower area right outside the camp.
As the sun began to set many of us went to the hill just outside of our camp to take photos and enjoy the experience of a true Saharan sunset. The crew broke their daily fast and had their dinner before we were served a fantastic meal seemingly made out of nowhere.
Following dinner we again found our way on to the carpets in the center of the camp and continued to enjoy each others company while the nomads performed and eventually encouraging us to join them in dancing. When it was time to get some sleep many of the students decided to pull the mats from the tents into the center of the camp or sleep in the large tents on the couches. It almost seems strange to me that I can say I slept under the stars in the Sahara but it was truly beautiful. While I can’t say that I had a peaceful nights sleep it was all a part of the experience and sooner that I would have liked it was time to get up for sunrise.
After a simple breakfast of bread and honey the students got back on their camels while Ana, Eddie and I stayed back to make sure that things were taken care of at camp. With the all clear we got in the crew jeep and were driven back to the buses to await the pack of students. Fortunately my dear Louaine also had the same idea and took the jeep back with us. Back on the bus it was another 9-hour drive back to Marrakech with a few pit stops and a lunch break.
I was excited to get back to Marrakech and check into our hotel for a hot shower that turned out to be a fair bit less than hot but at least I was clean. It wasn’t long before Eddie, Steven and I got a call from Ana and our faculty trip leader Cindy who were down stairs ready for dinner. We found this restaurant that looked pretty simple on the outside but inside looked like the Garden of Babylon. It was beautiful. We had a wonderful dinner and enjoyed the local red wine, of which I purchased two bottles of the next day. I ate duck for the first time and I am proud to say that I cleared plate. After a long diner and great conversation we headed back to our hotel feeling exhausted but at the same time energized by our experience in Marrakech.
It all seemed strange that just a few days prior I was in Spain enjoying all the sangria I could and then I had just spent a night in the Sahara after riding camel back. Having our first two ports back to back was a bit disorienting in some ways. Perhaps as we continue we will ‘rebound’ faster but after 4 days in Spain, 1 on the ship then in jumping right into Morocco it was daunting. Many of us were still processing our experience when we were thrust into a new one. I guess that is just part of the journey.