TRAVEL WRITER ENTRY | Being on the back of a camel at early morning in the Sahara in Morocco belongs to a once-in-a-lifetime experience, as SABRINA EHRLE discovers. Just remember to pack something warm.
“HELLO, my name is Cammy, and I’m your guide through the desert. Will you join me? Okay, jump on. You might feel a bit dodgy on my back, squeezed between my hump but you’ll be right, mate. Just remember that I’ve been trained for that, carrying bloody tourists around all my life. Mohammed, my owner, said that I have to be a good camel. I pay his food, bringing him a little bit of income to survive. So I serve him. I’ll be a good camel – even to you, tourist!”
The Moroccan desert is full of other camels like Cammy. Being a camel means being a working animal for life. Tourists might feel sorry for them and the way they are treated: tied up legs and bounded together with other camels when they rest over night. What a shitty life, we think, but Mohammed contradicts: “They are dumb, stupid animals.”
We have no choice. As a tourist that wants to explore the country, we need to get help from all those Cammys. Everyone who visits Morocco and has not been to the desert has not seen Morocco. That is what locals say – and some good travel guides too.
Welcome to the Sahara – the world’s hottest desert and the third largest desert. The whole area covers 9,400,000 square kilometers and mainly belongs to North African countries like Algeria, Libya and Egypt. But also Morocco owns a part. It does get hot in the summer – but also freezing cold in the winter. From December until February the temperatures often drop down to minus degrees at night time. You might hop on a camel two hours before sunset and it is still nice and warm but as soon as the sun goes down, you will feel the cold in your face. A light breeze makes it even tougher. Real camel drivers or nomads simply sleep in a Berber tent. They are used to it and know the best way to protect themselves. Tourists simply fail.
It is just a tent. A tent made of sheets and thick woolen blankets. We are surely getting a tourist tent but even that is simple. No light, no chair and no mattress. A few blankets will do the job. Well, maybe in the summer but what about the winter? They did tell us about the temperature differences between day and night, yes they did. We put on two layers of jumpers and socks, a beanie and even gloves. Nevertheless, those desert nights are way too cold. The wind whistles by the temporary equipped tent and I just want that night to end. Caaaaammyyyyy, take me back to the sun, please!
We take off early in the morning, just after sunrise, and are enjoying every single sunbeam touching our skin. It is a sheer pleasure to be driven by a feeling of tranquility and seclusion. Being on the back of a camel at early morning in the Sahara belongs to a once-in-a-lifetime experience – doubtless. Cammy is taking us back to the Kasbah, a mud hut or a fortress, which is often found in the Sahara.
Kasbahs are quite nice. They do have running water – even if it is in the middle of the desert. They get their water through a pumping system out of an oasis. Showers and toilets are working. Everything is set up for tourists, who should bring money to Morocco. The government and the people are all hoping for tourism. It will be just a matter of time until the entire mystique will be destroyed. So jump on a camel before it is too late, preferable in the winter months, to avoid all-inclusive tourism.
You still find people that are hardly affected by tourists. The so-called nomads can be found in the Moroccan Sahara region, closely to the Algerian boarder. They move with the wind, one would say. They actually stay as long as they can feed the family, or rather as long as their cattle have something to eat.
The family’s housing consists of one berber tent (very similar to the one we have slept in) and a smaller one functioned as a kitchen, which is thatched with straw. Nomads take everything from their livestock: from unprocessed wool and animal hair to meat. Women make yarns, rugs and apparel out of it.
Day two of our desert journey ends watching the sunset from the roof of a Kasbah, pointing Erg Chebbi near the Moroccan Sahara town Merzouga. What a peaceful sunset on a slightly cold winter evening. I am pretty glad enjoying a real room with a heater tonight. I really appreciate the luxury.
Sabrina Ehrle entered our Great Travel Writer competition for August. Submit your entries for September now!