Sunday, July 20, 2014

Morocco - Night in Sahara Desert

Meet Mohammed (tour guide operator and desert hotel owner). Middle of Sahara and he has a swimming pool and WIFI. But since it was 46 degrees I could not bring myself to do a blog!

 

Swimming pool in Sahara desert

 

 

 

Mag choosing desert clothing!
 

Me ready for the desert (after experiencing the wind blowing in the desert I realize how important it is to cover your head!)

Meet my camel 'Jimmmy Hendricks' - will that be one hump or two? Fact - camels in the Middle East and Northern Africa have one hump and are called dromedaries, Bactrians are two hump camels in Central Asia.
We could not start off on our adventure until the sun started going down at about 5:30 pm.
Why don't I look like the gals from Sex in the City Movie?
Off to the desert we go !
 
It is Ramadam here (no water or food from 4:30 am to 7:45 pm every day) - I would not make a good Muslim!
 
Sahara Desert (Arabic 'the Great Desert') is the warmest and third largest desert after Antarctica and the Arctic. At over 9,400,000 square kilometres (3,600,000 sq mi), it covers most of North Africa, making it almost as large as China or the United States. Some of the sand dunes can reach 180 metres (590 ft) in height.

After over 1.5 hours on the camel I started feeling camel sick ( motion sickness) - actually thought I was going to pass out and fall off the camel - what a sight that would be. The guides took me off the camel and laid me on a blanket in the middle of the desert and started pouring cold water all over me while I drank water - good thing it is so hot and you dry fast as we are sleeping in our clothes tonight! I started to feel better and opted to walk the remaining 20 minutes barefoot!

Scary sight after walking in the desert!

Camels, most often associated with the Sahara, were introduced to the desert around 200 A.D. Their advantages over the horses they replaced include soft feet that are aligned so that they can move quickly and easily through sand and their ability to go for up to 17 days without food or water.

The Addax nasomaculatus, also known as the screwhorn antelope, is the Sahara's largest indigenous mammal. It travels in small herds throughout the Western Sahara, Mauritania and Chad. Instead of drinking water, it sucks moisture from the desert grasses and bushes. Its oversized hooves make the addax adept at moving through the Sahara's loose sand.Rodents, snakes and scorpions thrive in the desert environment. The desert is home to the deathstalker scorpion (good thing I did not know about these creatures while I was walking barefoot) which can be nearly 4 inches (10 cm) in length. Its dangerous venom contains large amounts of agitoxin and scyllatoxin.Among the 40-plus species of rodents in the Sahara is the jerboa, related to the mouse, rat and squirrel (we did see one of these along with a desert snake). To keep cool, the jerboa burrows underneath the desert's sands to more humid soils.

Jackals and several types of hyenas are among the carnivores that roam the Sahara. Weighing less than 3 pounds (1.4 kg), the Mall Fennec Fox (we saw tracks of one of these) is another carnivore that makes its home in tunnels in the sand dunes during the day and comes out at night to prey on the rodents.

I am glad I did not read about these creatures before I decided to walk barefoot in the sand!

Even the camel needed a drink - maybe he had Lorna sickness!

After about two hours we reached our Nomad camp.

Our sleeping accommodation, complete with a hard bed and an electric light not to mention a sand floor with a carpet (not the flying kind!)

Now the washroom facilities are another matter - yes there is a toilet but no you do not flush just dump water from a bucket into the toilet when you are finished - now I know why I hate camping!

Our camp 30 km from the Algeria border

Most of the people living in Sahara are Nomads. These Nomads, with their herds of sheep and goats and with camels for transportation, predominate in drier areas and continue to use as in centuries past, for water, trade, and provisioning stops. These people are always moving from place to place in search of better living conditions.

The major groups of people that live in the Sahara are the Berbers. Earlier Berbers lived across the whole northern part of Africa. Today most of the Berbers live in Morocco and Algeria. They make up 40 percent of Morocco's population and 30 percent of Algeria's population. Berbers live in rural areas where they raise sheep and cattle.

Over 10 million Moroccans are Berbers. Most have little or no education except what they learn from tourist - our guide could understand about 5 languages but could not write any.

Our guides made us the most delicious traditional Berber dinner - the main course being a chicken tangine.

The other people were from Spain and although there English was limited and our Spanish non existent we were able to communicate and had a lovely evening beside large sand dunes, enjoying the silence and beautiful stars in the sky! The sunset was nothing exciting as I think we are here at the wrong time of year for the beautiful orange sunsets. No need for the jackets we packed - about 30 degrees and no air conditioning in our tent (not that we expected any).

Our guides showed us where they have dug down about 1.5 meters in the sand to find water which can be used for drinking. Our guides were to play some traditional drumming music for us but we were all so tired and would have to be up by 4:30 in the morning to start the trek back - so we all opted for sleep well sort of sleep. It was very hot and in the middle of the night we had a sand strom with winds as strong as a hurricane - I actually thought the tent might blow down, but it did not.

Getting ready for the trek home - our guides have been up all night eating and drinking - they sleep during the day during Ramadam.

 

No camel sickness on the way back

 

 

Sunrise in the desert

 

Back to civilization

 

Jimmy needs a rest!

 

This is how I spent my 58th birthday! Another item to check off the bucket list !

My next blog will be the adventures to and from the desert! Marrakech is about an 8 hour drive over the Atlas Mountains to the Sahara Desert.

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