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Birthday in the Sahara

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the view from of the dunes from our hotel in the Sahara

I’m a little behind on blog posts, but I’ve got a bit more to share about my trip to Morocco.  After visiting the medina in Fes and and shopping a little more than I had planned at all the charming factories of Fes, I was relieved to get out of the cities and head to the Western Sahara.

The drive was phenomenal – I had no idea of the variety of landscapes in Morocco!  I mentioned earlier that I didn’t really pack properly for a winter in Morocco.  On our drive, once again I didn’t dress correctly.  I thought that since we were in Morocco and driving to the desert, I would be warm enough wearing light clothes and flats with no socks.  It works all over California, I thought, why not Morocco?  Although the van was nice and toasty, we took our first rest break outside Ifrane, where there was snow on the ground!

The Atlas Mountains are divided in three parts: the anti, middle, and high ranges, situated on a northeast-southwest plane.  The High Atlas are, not surprisingly, the highest elevation, but located in between the Anti and Middle Ranges.  The middle range is north and the Anti Atlas in Southern Morocco.  On the drive from Fes to the Western Sahara, we drove through the Middle Atlas before reaching the dunes.

Along with snow and mountains, we saw more lush farmland, rolling hills, high desert, and all of the subclimates along the way.  Between the mountains and the desert, we stopped at this creek for a picnic lunch with bread we had bought at a village bakery on the way and wine and cheese from a supermarket outside of Fes. It was one of my favorite meals on the way.

I may have mentioned it before – I really hate camels.  From my experiences with them in the Arab countries of the Middle East I learned that they will spit at you, and, given the chance, bite.  Never trust their perpetual smiles!  I had also thought that their meat wasn’t so tasty, but after enjoying a camel burger in Fes, I thought I’d give riding one another chance as well.  I found myself straddling Mehmet, a Moroccan camel who grumbled with every move.  You board the camel while it’s laying down, then it goes through an odd maneuver to stand up.  As it straightens its hind legs, you’re lurched forward, then thrown back as it unbends its front knees and ankles.  I tightened my core, held on, and before I knew it I was focused more on my camera and capturing the amazing views than grabbing the saddle handles. Riding a camel is a lot easier than riding a horse; except for the boarding process, you don’t really need to hold on.

Our camel guides led us out to some dunes while running up and down to take these awesome silhouette pictures.  At some point we stopped, and they recommended we kick off our shoes, and run up the dune for a great sunset view.  I realized that they were each only wearing socks to trudge through the sand.  Because the sky was so clear, the setting sun wasn’t spectacular, but I loved pulling my toes through the cool sand and watching the light change on the dunes.  It was a perfect place to celebrate another year!

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Patrick Redmon #

    Well, Happy Birthday, Sarah! And glad to see you survived yet another bout with the camel! I am with you – don’t like’m and don’t know if I’ll ever like’m! I will admit that some of the funniest moments in Iraq, Kuwait and other places in the area involved watching Marines go through the “camel stand up maneuver” you so eloquently described. As you know, it doesn’t always end well for the rookie rider. 🙂 I was never a big fan of horses while growing up either. As my Dad used to describe them: big, strong and stupid. (OK, go ahead and insert a Jarhead joke here…) Ha Ha

    Nothing earth-shattering about the inaugaration. Regardless of what the press might be saying, the crowd was actually quite small. NOTHING like the last one. The biggest gaffe seems to be the “was it live or taped?” issue with Beyonce’s national anthem. Really? The parade started late (go figure…) so we were still bussing Marines back to Quantico at 2130 that night! The temperatures were tolerable so it wasn’t too bad, but when you are “ondeck, ready to go” by 0700 – meaning you mustered at 0400 – it makes for a very long day. With all of the talk about the growing national debt, possible sequestration, rising taxes, etc… I found it a bit disconcerting that we (collectively) spent the MILLIONS of dollars on this 2nd go ’round. And that doesn’t include the “lost time” for the thousands of uniformed military personnel whose pay/salaries weren’t part of the $$ equation. Oh well, what the hell do I know, huh? Keep the blogs coming and be safe. BTW: Are you actually gonna have to go to school sometime this semester!? 🙂

    January 28, 2013
    • I will be back in school eventually – classes start 11 Feb. I’ve got a few more posts about Morocco to write, and then I’ll be back to talking about Turkey. I will say that I think the camels in Morocco were much sweeter than Egypt or Bahrain, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re camels! Hope you’re doing okay in the wintry weather. We’re still in the mid 40s here!

      January 28, 2013

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