Mirages in an expanse of gold - Amidst the Sahara
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Driving around Morocco is an experience not to be missed. Irrespective of the mode of transportation you opt for, the countryside will make you fall in love with it!If it's public transport, it'll still be entertaining and cheap.. (if not comfortable!).
The best way to get around is to drive. The manner and antics of other drivers on the road, will keep your senses on high alert! Which is great as that ensures you're taking all of it in!
We had passed the Kasbah of Ait Benhaddou and were on our way to Merzouga. Ait means ‘family’ so in other words, we had visited the family of Ben Haddou!
The Atlas Mountains were a phenomenon like no other.
I had visited a live volcano in Tagaytay in Philippines and had passed the Sierra Nevada in Andalusia, yet these ranges seemed to be full of mystery. To be holding a treasure horde of tales - stories from bygone centuries.
It appeared as if a painter had chosen shades in crimson and brown and painted the countryside as he pleased. I wondered about the massive scale of tectonic activity that could have occurred millions of years ago to cause such a formation.
We passed winding, serpentine roads. Moroccans have a fascination with roads and most of them end up being zigzag. Makes for a memorable road-trip though. It was past noon, when the surroundings started to change.
The mountains had started diminishing slowly yet steadily, to be replaced by expanses of gold. The heat was intensifying and I convinced myself it was an illusion - a mirage. I couldn't have been more wrong!
The Dunes were finally visible, yet they seemed distant. However, before we could set foot on them, a black plain stretched ahead. We stopped and stepped down the 4x4 - the local term for an SUV. The driver told us to go wild searching for fossils - real, actual fossils – courtesy, the Atlas Mountains!
This time I wasn't wrong, when I assumed they held treasure! After collecting a few as memorabilia we continued our chase to the Sahara....
Once we had halted, I could see scattered sand, but the dunes had disappeared!Weren't they as huge as they seemed to be?
Putting my panic aside, I quickly crammed only essentials into the backpack, to get started on the next lap of the journey.
The camels seemed accustomed to the excursion, so we proceeded, moving slowly but steadily into the heart of the desert. After a couple of minutes, civilisation seemed to have vanished! My fears were pointless! Colossal dunes stretched as far as the eyes could see.
The sun was gradually setting on the horizon, and I fidgeted on my camel, trying to get a good picture. I gave up after a few minutes, and soaked in the feeling, all the while clinging on for dear life, as my camel started descending in a hollow between the dunes.
This is where the camp was set. Sandstorms were unpredictable hence everything was makeshift. Yet the small comforts took me by surprise.
Smell of tagines, wafted out from the tent in the center. Travelling had got us ravenous. The meal was devoured in a jiffy and we proceeded for a walk in the twilight, with no sense of direction. The Berbers in the tent, started playing indigenous tunes which echoed in the desert. As the temperature steadily dipped below 0 degrees, we headed back to tent.
As soon as dawn struck, we started towards the highest dune in the vicinity, and waited with bated breath for the first rays of the sun to hit. Sunshine slowly continued to change the color of sand from brown to gold.
The whole of the Sahara seemed to glow in minutes.
We spent many hours trying to bask in the glory of the moment.The feeling of being one of the very few people left on earth, enjoying the grandeur Nature has so abundantly provided!
As we headed back, I couldn't have been more thankful for the beauty present at the far corners of the earth, which make our belief stronger, that magical places do not exist only in imagination!
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Disclaimer: This post first appeared in the Newspaper - Sakaal Times and was written by me.
How do you get to the Sahara Desert in Morocco??
- Merzouga is the city located right next to the massive dunes of Erg Chebbi
- There are smaller dunes located at Zagora which is located far closer to Marrakech and can be targeted in a day trip (although it's really tiresome!) . Speak to some organizers at Djemaa El Fna if you're in Marrakech, and haggle for a great price!
- The best way is to drive! But if that manner is not up your street, there are buses that leave from Marrakech, that usually take about 12.5 hours to get to Merzouga. Tickets are cheap.
- Supratours and CTM are 2 major companies that provide bus transport, however like I've mentioned previously they travel only upto Erfoud and Rissani - which host excellent local markets on specific days
- Tickets cost apprx. MAD200 per way per person. You can book tickets in advance from the website or you can purchase them at the bus station. You cannot purchase a return ticket!
- If you plan to drive yourself, you would need a minimum of £500 for pre-authorization. You will not be charged this amount, but need to be able to show, you'll be able to cover expenses if mishaps occur.
- For a more detailed itinerary as to how I planned my trip, have a look at my complete detailed itinerary here, which covers places to stay, where to eat and which places you shouldn't give a miss!
Ready to head of to Morocco to experience this for yourself? Here's the complete archives for you to get an idea and get planning!
Have you had any breath-taking experiences that you've always dreamed about? ! Let me know!
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