An Unforgettable Camel Ride Into the Sahara
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because camel selfies.
By Daniel Malloy
We’re surrounded by dunes — massive, rippling mountains of light brown. The wind whips up another splash of granules and I adjust my turban, newly fashioned from a scarf. All I can see, aside from our short caravan, is a vast emptiness. This is how traders have crossed the Sahara for thousands of years. Here I am, one in a long line of desert wanderers. Now if only I could get the proper angle for a camel selfie.
Morocco has many tourist charms, from the lively bazaars of Marrakesh to the seascapes of Essaouira. But if there’s one unmissable moment — the ultimate vacation photo conversation starter — it’s riding a camel in the Sahara Desert.
When they say hang on tight, they do mean it.
For our tour group of about a dozen, it meant spending 10 hours in a minibus from Fes out to Merzouga, the edge of the world’s largest sandbox. There’s some scrub grass and a modest hotel at our arrival point, so the first impression is not awe. After dropping our bags, we are led down to the dromedaries — one-humped Arabian camels. The great beast assigned to bear my burden crouches on command. I swing a leg over to scale its back. Then, at a clicking sound from the guide, it arises and nearly pitches me off the front. When they say hang on tight, they do mean it.
We plod in a line over a dune and then the scale hits me along with the wind gusts. Nothing but sand stretches to the horizon in all directions. My mind wanders back to work with a kind of bemused detachment. This is about as far as one can physically get from emails and deadlines and the relentless march of news.
After a little while, though, the novelty starts to wear off. This camel does smell, and it does not have leather seats. Good thing we picked the 45-minute ride instead of the three-hour tour. The other band of tourists goes over another dune. Suckers. We’ve already made camp for a glass of mint tea.
Restless after the ride, a few of us scamper up a giant dune, on which footing is a vanishing act, for a better peek at a cloudy sunset. A traditional dinner back at camp is followed by music and story-swapping with our guides. We sleep on mats under innumerable stars and even get a splash of rain, to go with the reminder of just how small we are.