After breakfast, we climbed into rugged 4×4 vehicles and drove to the village of Rissani, for a short visit with a family before heading into the Sahara desert to our tented campsite located in a sea of sand dunes near Merzouga – no roads, no people except an occasional nomad, and no sounds other than our own voices.
A fabled and unforgiving land, the Sahara brings to mind a sense of nature’s power, of wonder and mystery. 3 ½ million square miles, the Sahara blankets much of the northern third of the African Continent, from the Atlantic Ocean some 3,000 miles to the Nile River and the Red Sea, and southward from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and the Mediterranean shores more than 1,000 miles to the savannah called the Sahel. We were to explore but a miniscule portion of it.
Sitting in the middle of the back seat of a 4×4 with nothing to grab onto it was all I could do to keep from slamming my head into the roof as we negotiated the sand path with dips and ruts to our camp! The scenery was unbelievably awesome, and more than made up for the kidney-jarring ride. Mountainous dunes, the sand sculpted by wind and gravity and the colors changing as the sun moved across the sky, it was incredibly beautiful.
We arrived at our campsite in the late afternoon, and gathered around the dining tent for tea. Our circle of tents were quite comfortable except for the inside temperature, no air conditioning, no fans and only two small flaps and a door to open for ventilation. Keeping the door open invited hordes of flies to enter and while they didn’t bite they quickly became very tiresome.
On an afternoon ride we stopped at a large tent camp and our guide had us stay in the car while he spoke with the inhabitants, a mother, her mother-in-law and two small children. They agreed to talk to us so we entered their tent and spread out on the carpeted floor. It wasn’t long before the mint tea was served and the women talked about their life in the desert, not an easy one by any measure. The husband was away working, leaving the women to tend the animals.
We arrived back in our camp in time for a walk up the dunes and a spectacular sunset.