Saharan…Snowboarding & Foot Massages?

Morocco Part 3As extraordinary as camping in the Sahara was, I can’t imagine a more tourist-happy activity than camel rides, even if it was on local Berber-rug saddles from a campsite to a puny village. Just like riding elephants in Thailand, the whole idea is exotically enticing but then your butt just hurts and the camel in front of you pees and sprays on your leg and the wind whips sand in your face and…yeah an hour later it’s not so romantic anymore. But it was still good ol’ fashioned fun and who can say that they’ve ridden a camel named Lady Gaga through the Sahara? Or that’s what Muhammad told me she (he?) was named…

So after sufficiently abusing our gluteus maximuses, we gracefully dismounted our regal creatures and staged a photo shoot with them. Camels love having their picture taken. Or they’re just completely apathetic. Probably the latter. Anyway, with that accomplished, we entered the tiny village closest to our campsite where most of the workers live with their families. Virtually all of the revenue in the area comes from tourists, so they haggled us accordingly for just about every trinket. I had already splurged on a Berber rug in Fez, but opted for some amazing jewelry at a shop in town. Rather, the shop in town–it was just a few mud huts grouped together around a few trees, with nothing to distinguish the buildings from each other. As the guides told us, architecture is more about what is inside the house, so that you impress your family and guests, not make your neighbors jealous with gaudy external decoration. So I’m sure French colonial style went over really well when they moved into Morocco to decorate.

The turban is an essential fashion accessory for this season’s desert-explorer look. Keeps the sun and sand out, and your lack-of-shower-stench in!

After a bit of wandering around this desolate village, I wished that I had been aware of the situation of the people that would be hosting us on “their” land. It would have been great to be able to bring toothbrushes (definitely something they needed), or even toys or candy for the kids. Anything would have been great to bring to share, after seeing how little they had and how hard they worked.
That being said, we returned to camp to hang out on the dunes, and promptly received foot massages from a crew of little guys. When we giggled and insisted that they stop, they kept wanting to so…of course we let them? They thought my frostbitten toes were hilarious, which they are, and after awhile they proceeded to climb on us like monkeys rather than rub our feet. How boys change…

After a oddly satisfying foot massage from 7-year-olds, my friend Ashley and I proceeded to make friends with the “sandboarding resort workers,” aka the guys that owned the Burton snowboards that had been converted to sandboards. Converted= ruined. After chatting with them for awhile in Spanish, they let me hop in the bindings, barefoot, and ride the dunes. Shreddin’ the gnar! Well, hardly. The friction on sand is a little much, so the board basically crawls, but it’s a fun ride down. After a few runs of this, our new friend asked me on a date and explained how hard it was to find a wife: girls marry at 17 to 28 year old men in an arranged marriage. “Nunca hay amor,” he told me; there’s never love in marriages, it is just for family connections. So I felt terrible for him, but not bad enough to be his wife. It was also impressive that the local Berbers had never attended school and couldn’t read or write much more than their own names, but many were tri-lingual at the very least, learning fluent Spanish and English just from spending time around tourists. Wish I could do the same in Spain!Global warming is inspiring the next extreme sport!

Our last night at camp consisted of (another) amazing dinner, and after dinner entertainment consisted of a rockin’ local tribal band! I totally would have bought their CD. Or tape. Then some of the locals proceeded to teach us how to traditionally dance, but it just turned into me trying to Thizzle-dance with one of them. He got the idea, and hopefully the Hyphy Movement will now be reborn in the middle of Morocco. Camp at night…wish we could have stayed longer! I love the no-shower excuse.

After two days that far surpassed my expectations for a trip vaguely described as “camping in the desert,” we headed out in 4×4’s to Erfoud. A better description might have been, “a once in a lifetime experience that is too spectacular to put into words, and one that you will never forget.” Goodbye, beautiful Sahara, hello “real” world. In Erfoud, we boarded back onto those dreaded buses for 8 hours to Meknes, a relatively modern city that we didn’t see much of beyond a little wandering around our hotel. A brief night’s sleep, then back onto buses, and then I pretty much passed out on the bus and had an instantly debilitating sickness. I love the way you taste, Moroccan food, but apparently my body doesn’t love you back. So the 24 hour trip back to Barcelona was indescribably miserable, as were the 3 subsequent days of staying in bed. Being sick is always awful, but even more so when every minute that passes by could have been one spent wandering around Europe. Oh well, hakuna matata! Or the Spanish equivalent, ¡manana manana!Crawl on, little beetle. Right on into Kaitlin’s bed…

 

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