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Sahara in the winter

I recently had the opportunity to go to the Sahara desert with a few friends. Although I have been to the desert before, it never ceases to amaze me when I visit. This was my first time though to visit in the winter, January, and it was cold.

We went by overnight bus leaving from Fes and arriving to the cold, fridged air of the desert town, Rissani, early the next morning. Upon exiting the bus we met our driver who would take us to the guest house where we could rest after our night long bus ride. We rode to the guest house in the dark. However, as soon as the sun came up, a beautiful sight awaited us as we saw the dunes at the doorstep of the guest house located in an ideal spot on the very edge of the dunes!

Heading to the campsite
Our day was spent reading by the poolside, napping, drinking tea and coffee, walking on the dunes, and laughing at ourselves as we each tried our hand at sand boarding, without much success. It is harder than it looks. Then near sunset time we were led to the camels patiently waiting for us to begin our trek out into the dunes. Our guide, Moha, walked in front of our camels leading the way. I was amazed by his ability to walk so effortlessly in the sand as I was tired after walking on the dunes for just ten minutes. But, Moha–like all the guides at the guest house–was born and raised in the Sahara. The sand is as normal for them as the cobblestone sidewalks of the old Fes medina are to me. We arrived at our campsite at the edge of the tallest dune, Erg Chebbi, around 150 meters, just as the sun was setting and were served delicious glasses of mint tea and peanuts to snack on as we waited for dinner. Following a delicious dinner of chicken and vegetable tagine, Moha and his two friends built a campfire for us and brought out their drums. What a fun and memorable night! We listened to the men sing and play their drums while lying back on the mattress placed for us on the sand. There seemed to be millions of stars above our heads, as well.

Shadows
Early the following morning one of my friends and I decided to wake up early to watch the sunrise over the dunes. We climbed halfway up the tallest dune in the desert, Erg Chebbi, and sat down to watch the sun come up. It was eerily quiet and still except for the occasional crow of a rooster or snort of a camel. (One of the benefits to going to the desert in the middle of winter is that there are not many people who visit that time of year.) Following a gorgeous sunrise we went back down to the tents to be served breakfast and then it was up on the camels again for the morning trek back to the guest house.

The remainder of the day was spent with more relaxing, walking on the dunes, reading books by the poolside, and talking with the staff. In the evening we were driven back to the bus station where we got on the bus once again to return to Fes. We arrived back in Fes early in the morning on the third day, exhausted, but filled with many wonderful memories that I am sure will stay with us the rest of our lives.

Please feel free to contact us for information on how to have your own memorable experience of the Sahara desert, either as a part of a package tour or separate.
By: Michelle Mellinger

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