Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Saharan Desert

I suppose when you think of an excursion in the Saharan Desert riding camels and nomading it up like a real "Berber" you feel like you're doing something pretty darn exotic. And yes, riding on a camel was definitely exciting (although painful) and I even managed to get some badass photos, but in all honesty, it's a HUGE tourist attraction. But I'm not gonna lie, I loved every damn moment of it.

There are two main types of excursions you can do; one being a two-day excursion to Zagora where you spend a full day in a van through the windy roads of the Atlas Mountains all to see some baby sand dunes and the other being a three-day excursion to Merzouga where the reward is a legit desert, humungo sand dunes and all. We decided to do the two day due to restraints of time and to be completely honest, it wasn't enough. I felt like I was put in front of a delicious batch of freshly baked cookies and not allowed to eat any of it. Punishment in its cruelest form. Of course it didn't help that the Berbers were telling us about some 12 day excursion in the desert where they make some sort of bread that cooks under the heat of the sand. Apparently it's "amazing, wow". Of course, if you're like me and don't have much time, definitely do at least the two day excursion. You still get to see a good deal of really beautiful sights in Morocco while in the car (unless of course you knock out) and of course, being the Saharan Desert, baby dunes or daddy dunes, is still pretty stinkin' cool. 

We also got an "added bonus" to our excursion package - free of charge -  because the Berbers took us to see the camels at night to show us how they really travel when trekking through the desert. Apparently camels give off a great deal of body heat, so the nomads lay the blankets down right next to their camel (yes, on top of it's poop) and cuddle with their stinky mate for protection against the cold desert winds. We were also given many other very useful camel information, you know, just in case we decide to live a nomadic life in the desert with our loyal camel companion. And in case we get bored in the desert, we were also given a handful of jokes and riddles. So, to say the least, our excursion was worth every penny; I mean free jokes, free facts... what more can you ask for?! 

Beautiful snowy Atlas Mountains in the background. Who knew Morocco could be so not desert-y?

Strong gusts of wind that give you that sexy model windblown look... for FREE!

The American in me is evident in the amazement that I felt every time I saw someone riding a donkey. But let's be honest, isn't it cool?!?

Atlas Mountains

An amazing gorge that we saw on our drive. Too bad I have no idea what it's called... Oh and a heads up for those of you who like photography, sit window-side and be prepared to snap away while moving because the vans only stop at touristic sites. 

Grand Canyon?

Draa Valley 

At every stop we made en route to Zagora, there was a "street vendor" selling some trinket or another

Again, I would get really excited to see people wearing the traditional Moroccan garb: the djellaba. After much wild guessing as to why the hoods are pointed, my good ol' friend Wikipedia tells me that it is used to prevent heat loss during wintertime as well as a nice little pocket during warmer weather that holds loaves of bread or groceries.... now I'd pay to see someone doing that!

Again, more street vendoring 

UNESCO World Heritage Sight (dos puntos!): Aït Benhaddou.  It's pride and crowning glory, for tourists at least, is that the Gladiator was shot there. The fortified city or "ksar" is made entirely out of mud and straw and is still very well preserved with stunning views of the neighboring villages.

Gettin' her Moroccan on!

Voila! And thus begins the bumpy trek into the desert on our camels.

Struttin' their thin and shapely legs for us!

A bonafide Saharan sunset. One of the many attempts to get this semi-decent picture because of all the shaking from being on the camel.
Our lovely little tent. The beds were more comfortable than that of our hostel... An indication that once again, that this is a huge tourist attraction.

Optical illusions

The brown stuff you see on the floor? That's called sand. Just kidding, I mean the little dark brown balls? Camel poop. Yes, they just looooove to poop. 

It looks so happy! I know my heart holds a special place for elephants, but camels are pretty effin' cute too.

An oasis of palm trees that stretches for as far as the eye can see.

And another special treat us "Californians" got is to finally see some snow. Not to mention that I have yet to see snow in Europe, but thanks to Northern Africa, I got to witness a legitimate snowfall. 


Wild dog was so sweet!

Stuffed wannabe camels anyone?

And last but not least, proof that Coca-Cola rules the world. 

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