Days 33-35: Road to Sahara

Me: Why is the water this color blue?

Driss: It is a reflection of the sky.

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We left Fes and headed to our next destination…Erfoud.  On our way, we had to travel through the Mid-Atlas Mountains.  We stopped in a village at the top of a mountain that reminded me very much of a place I had just visited in Europe…Switzerland. 

There was a lot of money flowing into this college town.  But does it surprise you that there are large homes and ski slopes all near the college?  School for the uber rich…that’s all I’m going to say.

As we headed through the mountains, Driss pointed out the Berber nomads.  From their tents to the sheepherders to the dogs that wait patiently alongside the roads for people to throw food to them…it was interesting to see their life. 

It really amazes me how a whole group of people choose to live in tents, moving from one place to another based on the availability of water and vegetation.  They care for sheep or goats or cattle, which provide their resources for what little money they need in order to survive.  You see, they don’t need money to live.

How is that possible?  Well, they don’t have to pay taxes on the land they live upon.  They don’t even have to rent the land.  They live off of the land and off of the byproducts from their flock.  They eat dates (which are abundant all throughout the land) and drink goat’s milk.

Their diet is very simple and they don’t eat much at all.  The men spend days tending to their flock before returning home, where their wives keep to the tents and do crafts and create rugs with intricate patterns on them that they use to sell to merchants.

Imagine a world without cell phones, BlackBerrys, televisions and the internet!  You may think you’d go crazy without any of those things, but oddly enough, you become addicted to the peace and tranquility of Morocco. 

While we made our way through the Atlas Mountains, we came across a ravine that was so beautiful to see amidst all of the sand and the mountains.  I had Driss pull over so I could take a picture of the water.  I stood there just marveling at how blue the water was. 

I got back into the car and asked Driss why the water was that color blue.  He replied (very poetically), “It is a reflection of the sky.”  I looked at him thinking he was joking, but he was dead serious.  I laughed and patted him on the back and told him that’s what I love about Moroccan men.  They are so poetic. 

As we drew closer to the sand dunes, Driss dropped me off at Xaluca Dades in Erfoud to spend the night.  What a gorgeous hotel in the middle of the desert! 

Driss told me before we went into the hotel that he noticed I hadn’t eaten in four days.  He told me to eat dinner and breakfast in the morning.  He told me the food would be safe…just eat.  So I did…but not without someone spying on me.

When I came out for dinner, I only picked up some rice and chicken and some cooked vegetables.  I sat down and one of the men working at the hotel came up to me with a huge grin on his face and asked me if I was from Room 1.  The bad part was I knew why he was asking.  I responded, “Yes.”  He then shook his head and smiled really big, walking away. 

While this would have creeped out anyone…I know why he did it.  He was checking up on me for Driss to make sure I was eating, because he hung around my table during breakfast to make sure I actually ate the food (I kind of gave it to the cat when no one was looking). 

I’ll be honest…I was scared to eat in both Europe and in Morocco.  I was living on water and juice for the first four days and I was perfectly fine.  I worked my way up to two meals…and then three towards the end of the trip…but that took a lot of trust in Driss to help me find food that I could stomach.  Trust me, Driss knew how sensitive my stomach was and did his best to make sure I found edible food.

The next morning, Driss picked me up at the hotel and took me to a fossil museum where the scientist there took me around to show me the fossils.  Mind you, I think he felt threatened by me.  I could tell he was not happy that he was giving a tour to a woman that was…well, Western with money…and not Muslim. 

Despite his continuing escalating anger…I did learn a few things.  For one, I find it so intriguing that the Sahara Desert was once the ocean.  They believe that one day it will return to the sea.  (Wild, right?)

There are sea fossils from millions of years ago that are dug up in the Sahara Desert and turned into furniture, marble tabletops and sinks, sculptures, and home items.  It’s quite beautiful and amazing.  I think every home that desires luxury should buy their marble tabletops and sinks from the Moroccans.  Just interesting to see all of the fossils embedded into the stone.

Afterwards, Driss took me to a mosque in a nearby town with beautiful date trees in the courtyard.  There, I was able to capture some photos of one of the men in the mosque.  I couldn’t have asked for a perfect picture.

We then headed off to see an old palace that was being restored.  The only thing in tact was the harem! 

I also got to try my first date (ever) that Driss found.  It had just fallen to the ground.  All I can say is that dates…are okay, but not my thing. 

We then headed off to the local markets (souks) that had just about everything you can imagine, including a livestock market. 

We then headed back to Erfoud, sat down and had lunch, while we awaited my driver to take me out to the sand dunes.  When Josef finally arrived, Driss gave him instructions on how to take care of me (gotta love Driss). 

I’ve already written about what happened in the desert that night and morning…so I’m not going to repeat it.  It’s just time to share the photos of the sunset and the sunrise.  What separates the sunset from the sunrise is the b/w photo of the desert at night with the moon in the sky as a small caravan heads back to their kasbah. 

What you will not see are pictures of Hamid.  He was sitting next to me as I took the pictures of the sunrise…TWICE.  As in if you want a girl to really fall in love with you, you show her how she can watch the sunrise twice in the same morning. 

One set of shots are of the sunrise appearing over the Algerian mountains in the distance.  The other set are the second sunrise from the bottom of the sand dunes. 

I’m not going to rehash my night in the Saharan Desert, because that one night in the desert was enough for a book. 

Right now, I wonder at this time of night if Hamid is watching the stars changing colors before his eyes.  When he first told me that the stars change colors, I thought he was nuts…but then he showed me what he was talking about…and I, too, saw the stars change colors before my very eyes. 

To see the world through a nomad’s eyes…probably one of the most magical things you’ll ever experience…so long as you are open to the possibilities that you can see two sunrises in the same morning and that the stars do indeed change colors. 

About Michelle Kenneth

Michelle Kenneth has been a member of the NHL credentialed media covering the New Jersey Devils since 2008 for Inside Hockey. She is the owner or PerfectionistWannabe.com.