An Unforgettable Camel Ride Into the Sahara - OZY | A Modern Media Company

An Unforgettable Camel Ride Into the Sahara

An Unforgettable Camel Ride Into the Sahara

By Daniel Malloy

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.

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