As I was walking away from the dessert, I felt a burden in my heart. I have never felt that for any place beyond my home. It was as if I was saying goodbye to something precious, as if I have been seduced by a witch. It was just then that I came to understand why the people living there dont want to leave.
Leaving Ifran we set our course towards Rissani. A long drive past the mountains and towards the dessert that lied endlessly from that point on. A long but amazing drive that took us from snowy mountains to gorges, valleys and rivers of palm trees. To my eyes everything seemed grand, vast.
Rissani was the place where we were supposed to meet our berber guides that would take us into the dessert. We didn’t actually know anything about them, nor had we carefully planned the whole adventure. After a day in Fez, we saw our host looking at photos from the dessert with his cousins, so we asked him info and ended up arranging three days in Sahara where some of his friends (or cousins or someone else close to the family, whatever) would take us there, after we locked all our stuff and car in Rissani. And you know what? It was the best decision we could have made! When we got out of the car, members of a family business welcomed us warmly and a few little girls (it could well be the most beautiful children we had seen) came reluctantly close Matina and Sofia out of curiosity – especially when they saw blond hair and blue eyes. They started hugging them and touching their hair laughing wholeheartedly. Berbers and generally everyone we met in the dessert were some of the kindest, calmest and most smiling people I have encountered. Simple and true.
We arrived in a kasbah near Merzouga. It is difficult for me to understand even now where exactly we were. You see in the dessert, especially for the uninitiated, it is not easy to mark your course or even spot landmarks as the scene is fragile and constantly changing. In my normal life, being a somewhat control freak, this would make me terribly anxious. There, I just felt like letting go.
All of these were a prelude to what Sahara was. The vast sand and sun. For that we would ride camels and move further away from civilization.
We arrived in a small settlement. A set of tents making an inner yard. I guess as a means to protect against the sand and the wind. It is really hard for me to imagine that there you are in the middle of nowhere without many things to do. For a moment this thought of what are we supposed to do made me panic. But it didn’t take long to not even remember myself having this thought. Far away from everything, it was the first time that I could take a breath and wind down, let time pass by without trouble. Enjoy simple things, like walking barefoot in the wonderful sand. Or trying to just have a silly conversation like when we were kids – do you think we should start jumping and fall in the sand?
And then we started walking to catch the wonderful sunset. Just a step further and another one and another one. You then realized that you had been witched, drawn by a magic sun to the ends of the world. But survival instincts prevail and you sit down and decide to keep on staring at the falling sun.
As the sun falls, so does the temperature. We gather around the fire, put a blanket on and try to sleep anxious to see the sun rising again. Yes, that was our only concern. Good times.
We head back. I feel each step heavier. Every logic cell in my mind tells me that Sahara is a place to visit and then move on. Every sentiment in my heart paints a different story. I feel sad, just as I feel happy to have been there.
As we arrive in our kasbah to get our staff, there is a constant noise in the background from a party – Sahara Trance Party. I smile at the thought that if I had not gone inside the dessert, most probably I would have called it “sound” or “music” and I could even have wanted to go there. Now, I felt like it was most stupid thing.
Ali takes us back to our car. Life goes on and Morocco still has a lot to show us! At the last part of the story, part three!