One of the first group trips I took with my study abroad program was to Merzouga, or the pre-Sahara desert. It is just the beginning of a vast view of reddish sand that you will find in your shoes, your bags, and your ears weeks after you have left. Nonetheless, the beauty of a seemingly endless view of red sand dunes is mesmerizing.
Our journey to Merzouga began with piling into dusty Toyota Highlanders that had driven through the gravel roads for years. As we zoomed through the unpaved path, I couldn't help but feel like I was in a movie partaking in a high speed action car chase. We bounced up and down inside the car before we stopped in from of the resort. We were greeted with hot cups of mint tea and delicious roasted peanuts before being shown our accomodations. The rooms were tents with either twin beds or queen size beds that had one light switch and one outlet.
After settling in, the camel guides came to offer camel rides to the dunes. Clambering onto the large beast was no different than a horse and they dropped us off near the bottom of some of the higher sand dunes. Here, we would hike to the top in order to watch the sun set.
As my feet sunk into the sand (it is easier to walk without shoes), I could feel my calves burning as I trekked up the dune. Although it wasn't unbearably hot, the arid climate dried my lips. Along the way people threw themselves onto the sand, groaning that it was too hard and tiring. Meanwhile, the young children who lived here ran past us. Somehow I made it to the top where others were already sitting and taking in the view. Taking tons of pictures, we watched the sun begin to hide behind the dunes as we started to descend. It was freeing to run down the smooth bank and feel the sand fly around you.
Near the bottom where our camels waited, people were collecting sand in empty water bottles as keepsakes. I decided to collect some for myself as well. The camels took as back to the tents and we ate a delicious dinner before gathering to watch a band perform traditional music. The beating drums filled the air with energy and suddenly the exhaustion of climbing sand dunes was replaced with the need to dance. A circle formed and laughter filled the air as everyone clapped and danced until midnight.
Despite my fatigue, I woke up the next morning to watch the sunrise over the dunes before returning to bed. I was surpised how comfortably I was able to sleep.
Anytime I miss my time in Merzouga, I glance at the small mason jar filled with Merzouga sand that sits in my room. When sunlight hits it at the right angle, it glows like it did when I was sitting on top of the sand dunes.