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A Camel Trek into the Sahara

My first time on a camel was a very brief introduction where I rode one with my mom for a few blocks in Bangalore, India. The most memorable part of the experience was how uncomfortable it was and the extremely awkward gait of the camel. Since then I have had several encounters with camels, one for a ride around the desert in Cairo to see the Great Pyramids of Giza and another at the entrance to Petra in Jordan. Although I am self-admittedly not great at taking selfies, I find them much more interesting if there is a funny animal to get one with. Two times I have gotten very close to a camel trying to take a selfie and both times the unamused camels immediately began making a low gargling sound, which was extremely effective at getting me to quickly leave them alone.

Despite not being particularly fond of camels, after hearing about an amazing camel trek into the Sahara I was ready to give them another chance. Following a work trip to Agadir I stayed a few extra days in Morocco and took a bus out to Marrakech. From there I met up with a tour group and spent the next two days driving in a van out towards the desert until we finally arrived at the edge of the Sahara. The flat sands began mounding up to form massive dunes in the distance. As the dunes began to rise higher and higher, we stopped and transitioned from the van to camels. We loaded up on our camels and began the trek out to a Berber camp situated in the desert a few miles off the Algerian border. The views along the ride out of the impressive dunes with the shadows of our camels shifting along as they trudged on in silence was simply incredible.

Eventually we spotted the small Berber camp nestled in at the base of one of the largest dunes. We climbed off our camels and headed part way up the dune to catch the sunset as the wind whipped the sand around us. After it set, the temperature quickly began to drop and we all plunged down the side of the dune in a full sprint (definitely the most fun part of climbing the dune) until we reached the camp. We settled into our heavily blanketed tents and waited by the fire pit in the center on old rugs until dinner was announced. Everyone dug in to the delicious carb heavy smorgasbord of meat, olives, and bread. After filling up on the hearty meal, we returned to the fire pit and lazily lounged with several other tour groups. Our hosts came out in their traditional attire and began playing local instruments and drums, encouraging us to clap and join in.

The next morning we were up and packed before dawn. I think it is fair to say that everyone was feeling a bit stiff and sore from the previous day, but we loaded back up on our camels and set off. The slow pace allowed us to watch the gradual transition from the morning light glimmering on the horizon to a full-fledged sunrise over the dunes. It was quite an amazing way to greet the day and certainly a very memorable sunrise. When we made it back to the edge of the desert I was rather happy to be ending the camel riding portion, but the experience was well worth the slight discomfort on the return!

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