Having just spent the last ten days road tripping around Moroccan cities and sites, I feel like my head is whirling with thousands of images, each begging further description than I have time to record. Though Marrakech, Essaouria, and Ouarzazate had plenty to offer, I find myself frequently thinking back to our camel ride in the dunes of Merzouga.
After a brief lunch in the town of Erfoud, our group clambered into several Land Rovers and were soon speeding into the desert. Hopefully those on our trip who suffer from motion sickness remembered to take their Dramamine, because our drivers certainly enjoyed careening around the hills and dips of the sandy landscape -- I frequently felt like I was in a sports car commercial.
An hour later we were dropping off our backpacks in small, musty tents nestled deep within the desert sand, ready to ride. But, it turned out our much anticipated sunset camel ride was being postponed to early the next morning. This delay had little to no effect on our group morale, however, and we spent the remainder of the evening frolicking around like kids in a giant sandbox.
The next morning our alarms were beeping WAY too early, and we were out of our tents walking towards the dark shapes that could only be our transportation for the morning. Riding a camel is certainly different than riding a bicycle, but like the latter the task gets easier as you grow accustomed to it. Once you get over the constant bumpiness, and the fear that your blanket saddle (and you by extension) will slip sideways into the sand, it's pretty great.
In the growing light we circumvented several of the larger dunes, gripping our saddles tightly according to the degree of ascent or descent, and eventually found ourselves encouraged to dismount (a VERY awkward ordeal) and climb to the peak of a nearby mound to watch the sunrise (see photos for accurate portrayal).
The whole experience was surreal and beautiful. While it was certainly set up for tourists, as evidenced by our camel handler's sales pitch following the ride, it was one of my favorite parts of the trip thus far. There's a reason that these things are popular -- they're fun!