A Camel Excursion Through The Sahara

Romantic voyage to a simpler part of the world.

morocco camel ride
PHOTO Louis Alcorn

My conception of Morocco before visiting looked something like rolling desert plains dotted with oases and palm trees. People traverse the intimidating heat on camelback to travel between villages. Although this romantic third world image may hold true in very far removed communities of the Sahara, Morocco turned out to be very different than what I expected. Just like the overwhelming population of Europeans who believe that all Americans own a ranch and a ten-gallon hat, I was wrong.

Marrakech is fairly well developed in terms of running, potable fresh water, electricity, architecture and its bustling tourism industry. Transportation development on the other hand remains rather lacking. On the streets there are literally no rules of the road. Larger vehicles have the right of way over smaller and a symphony of blaring horns pierce the air at every intersection. Crossing the street at a marked crosswalk resonates all too well with the popular arcade game Frogger.

PHOTO Louis Alcorn

Unlike my initial conception, the rolling sands of the Sahara Desert do not surround each and every Moroccan city. From Marrakech, we journeyed via mini bus for eight hours up and over the Atlas Mountains and down into the desert. Once we had reached a small town called Zagora, we mounted our camels for our picturesque ride into the desert as the sun set over the mountains.

Despite the awe-inspiring surroundings, the only thing I could think about remained our final destination. Riding a camel is nothing like riding a horse and the bouncing motion between each step contributes to a rather uncomfortable ride. Upon arrival however, the guides treated us to a traditional Moroccan tajine feast and a campfire gathering among the circle of Berber tents where we’d be spending the night.  Here as guests to their campground, we were allowed to really experience a small portion of the Berber desert lifestyle and take in all of the cultural intricacies surrounding their daily lives.

PHOTO Louis Alcorn

After the campfire we were free to do what we pleased and decided to wander off into the fine sands surrounding the camp. Since the nearest major city with electricity and lighting lay up and over the Atlas Mountains, every star in the night sky gleamed bright. It’s truly amazing the amount of the night skyskape that most people will never experience due to the light pollution of our large cities. We were out in the boonies, living life just about as simply as possible which provided a good break from the hustle and bustle of the daily stresses of the first world. Sometimes I wonder how people in some places live their lives without access to phones, the internet and even electricity. This experience, although very short lived, helped fortify my view that sometimes simpler is better.

In the morning we packed up and headed back to Marrakech where we initiated our travels back to Portugal, but not before I had realized that my initial vision of Morocco had been completely flawed. I suppose this would be yet another reason to avoid judging a book by its cover.

Louis Alcorn

As a San Diego native, Louis lives by his ultimate travel tip: take a minute in each place you visit to collect your thoughts and write them down. They tend to be invaluable when you look back in the future.

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