Shannon Fennell's Blog

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My Moroccan Adventure: The Sahara Desert

I returned home on Tuesday from a 10-day tour of Morocco with Insight Vacations.  What an experience!  I have a lot to show and tell so am going to break it into several posts as it is way too much to cover all at once.

The biggest highlight for me was visiting the Sahara Desert. It was the one single thing I was looking forward to the most. The excursion offered was a 4-wheel drive trip from our hotel in Erfoud out to the desert to watch the sunset. However our guide, Najib, said he could arrange for camels for those that wanted for an additional cost.  Are you kidding??  TAKE MY MONEY!!  The additional cost for the camel ride was 250 Moroccan Dirham which is about $33 CAD.

On March 28th we arrived in Erfoud and checked into the Xaluca Kasbah Hotel (that’s another post by the way…) We had about 35 minutes to find our rooms and do whatever we needed to before it was time to leave on the excursion.

We broke up into groups of four and loaded into a fleet of SUVs (all newer Toyotas, Mitsubishis and Nissans) for the ride out to the desert.  It was a fairly long drive.  We stopped once to visit a Bedouin family that was camped near the highway, then continued the drive.

The fleet stopped on a ridge to give all the opportunity to view the panorama of the dunes and kasbahs built along the edge (all movie sets by the way – recognized one from Star Wars!)  There was even a camel train moving along the bottom – can you see them?

At the foot of the Sahara

Then we all hopped back into the SUVs to meet up at the edge of the dunes and mount up on our camels.  Those that didn’t opt for the camel ride (and there were quite a few) had to WALK for 30 minutes to get to a good vantage point.  Yuck.  Glad I opted for the massive $33 dollars extra to ride.

There were lots of camels sitting around with the camel drivers.  There were other groups doing this too, so there were lots of camels!  I gave the camel driver the money and was taken over to one camel, got on and she stood up – that is a jerky process and had to hang on for dear life!  After a minute or so the camel driver came over, untied my camel from the other one, and made it kneel again… told me to get off.  So I did… then he said to another guy “We need more camel.”  I still don’t know what to make of that comment. LOL

So, mounted the second camel as I was told, and she stood up.  I decided to call her “Daisy” as every camel needs a name, right?  I think she has the sweetest face!

Camel Daisy

The one tied behind us I called “Petunia” – she kept moving up beside us and laying her head on my thigh so I would scratch her between her eyes.  She also sneezed on my back three times… but I forgave her.

Camel Petunia

These camels were very soft, I was expecting their hair to be coarser.

They were very well-behaved camels, not huge ones, and seemed to be all females.  My camel driver told me that the hotel there owns them all and there are 50 in total.  They hire the guys as needed to lead them.

The ride was at least an hour-long and was fantastic.  We went way into the dunes and our camel drivers took photos for us with our cameras, and they also had one guy taking photos with their own camera (which they had at the hotel the next morning for 20 dirham each – about $2.50.) This was taken on my camera and I love it!

Camel Ride

We were the lead camel in the caravan so I wasn’t getting sand blown in my face from the camels in front – which apparently was happening with those downwind.  It was pretty windy out there but being up on the camel helped a lot as it was blowing along the ground.

After all the photos way out in the dunes, we turned back and met up with the rest of the group who were all gathered along the top of a dune to watch the sunset.  We dismounted and then had to climb up the dune… that is really hard in moving sand!  I had two of the guides helping me get up there.

My camel driver wrapped my scarf as a turban – really needed something to block the blowing sand now that I was off the camel!  Sahara selfie – Shannon of Arabia?

Shannnon of Arabia

Then we all waited for the sunset.  Was a bit of an anticlimax – no real colour changes, just dropped down behind the horizon line.  The sky was completely clear.  I really amped up the colour in this photo – was too uninteresting in its natural colours!

Sahara sunset

Then I got back on Daisy to ride back to the vehicles – I would not have been comfortable walking in that sand.  I am so happy Najib arranged for the camels!

We all loaded back into the SUVs and the drive back to the hotel for a late dinner, and LONG showers to wash off the Sahara.  I was shaking sand out of all my shoes for days.

I was worried about my camera… still am.  The blowing sand got everywhere and when I got back to my room the shutter wouldn’t open!  I touched it and it opened, but was sticking a bit. I used the hairdryer to attempt to blow out any loose sand.  The control wheel (that changes the settings) also seems to be sticking – it won’t lock into the setting indicated but bounces around on its own.  I had to check repeatedly that it was on the setting I wanted when taking photos the rest of the trip.  It still works and thankfully all the photos from the rest of the trip turned out.  It is a 12-year-old Sony Cybershot and is a great camera.  I just carried it in my pocket the whole time.

The Sahara was awesome and I loved the camel ride, definitely THE highlight of my trip.

Not sure what I’ll cover next!  But more to come…. lots more.