It seems an inhospitable place. With virtually no rainfall, debilitating heat, and seemingly endless sand dunes, I was expecting my time in Morocco’s Erg Chebbi to be a memorable experience, but I wasn’t really expecting comfort – or anything close to luxury. I was wrong. Once we were deep in the Sahara, our Toyota Land Cruiser was replaced by the desert equivalent: two ornery but adorable camels. We climbed aboard and were escorted (to the camels’ grunting complaints) to an isolated dune to watch the desert sunset. Simple silence and absolute solitude with a view – there is nothing like it.
After a warm shower at our tent, we enjoyed an aperitif under a sky heavy with stars, and sat down to listen to two Gnawa musicians, a young boy with a hand drum and a gentleman strumming the lute. Our attempt to introduce ourselves in broken Arabic and Berber triggered a few shy smiles and, after niceties were exchanged, they began to play their soulful, rhythmic music. The musicians were so engaging that we soon found ourselves singing and dancing alongside them until dinner arrived.
A delicious four-course meal followed, featuring traditional harira soup, vegetable cous-cous, lamb tangine, and exotic fruit. After, we decided to forgo our bedroom and spend the night under the desert sky. With no competition from city lights, the stars were overwhelming and became our natural night light. We awoke at 4AM to a gentle “Kancky” from our guide (“good morning” in Berber). After some fumbling in the dark as we shook off our fatigue, we climbed back on our camels to watch the sun rise over the dunes. As the morning light began to flood the sky and the sun pushed up over the horizon, we felt no loneliness at being the only life in sight, only appreciation for the vast beauty of the desert and for being, temporarily, part of a world so far from our own.