Desert journey

As alluded to in my previous post, I’ve been to the desert this past week.  For only the second time in my twenty some years living in Morocco.  What’s up with that.

I can’t even begin describing what an experience it was for me.   Looking through the photos is almost painful.  I can’t remember having such a deeply and effortlessly spiritual journey.  We left busy, crowded Marrakesh, full of spring break revelers.   Marrakesh, the city that is growing with no vision, trading its soul one bit at a time for luxury apartment blocks, hotels, and now, the biggest mall in all of north Africa.  Do you know that Joni Mitchell song “They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot”.  Well she wrote that about Marrakesh.  Almost.  What I’m saying is, I’m exhausted and I need to flee.

So, we fled to the east, over the Atlas mountains, or somehow through them, via the Tizintichka pass.  Along the switchbacks, past the desert outpost of Ouarzazate.  The landscape changes from lush and mountainous, to dry and plain.  The further I got from Marrakesh, the more layers I felt falling away.  My eyes rested from visual pollution, as only beautiful and natural things filled my gaze.  Eventually even that natural beauty became more raw, more plain.  In the vastness and emptiness of the desert, my mind finally ran out of endless thoughts and ceaseless chatter.  I chewed all my cud until there was nothing left.  Nothing, really? Well, you know, a very little trickling stream of thought, not the usual torrent.  I like to have “nothing” flowing through me, like the very essence of creation.  And this is what seems to happen when you align yourself with the natural world.  You become a resonance, along with everything else,  you live, for an instant, your full potential as a natural creation.

Yes, words are indeed inadequate, at least mine are.

So, without further ado, here are some pictures, which make for a condensed photojournal of our trip.

This little slice of paradise lies on the Marrakesh side of the Atlas mountains (ok, the west side).  You won’t believe it, but the desert is just beyond those mountains.

Now we’ve passed through the mountains, see them in the distance?  We’re on the east side.  This is the valley of Ait Ben Haddou.  It’s an old caravan trading outpost.  The RV’s add a touch of realism.

After that, you only have to drive 8 more hours (or according to my husband, 6 hours), to get to actual sand dunes.  We then rode 1.5 hours into the desert by camel.  If that sounds impressive, our guide actually walked it, leading his camels the whole way.

Then, way out there, in a sea of sand, a tiny patch of trees appeared.  An oasis!  Water is only 5 feet underground. We will camp here.  So will about 100 other people, much to our surprise.

My son forms bonds very freely with people he meets.  At the end of our trip, he told me that he loves our camel guide, Moha, more than his own brother!


10 thoughts on “Desert journey

  1. What an amazing journey.
    I feel sad about the ‘parking lot’ feel about Marrakesh. I first started visiting
    in the early 90’s and have seen such amazing changes. I suppose increased wealth
    is good in some ways but the change is coming fast indeed.
    So amazing and wonderful; to escape all that is so exciting and refreshing.
    I’m glad your family enjoyed it too.
    I have been to the dunes south of Zagora but not or some years.

  2. lauramack says:

    Oh, thank you for sharing your desert adventure! I loved my visit to Marrakesh last fall, but I too felt overwhelmed by the business of it all. I was glad we stayed in the medina, as I felt more of the history of the place than I did when driving through the newer parts of the city.

    But my favourite moments were our leisurely drive through the Atlas Mountains. I could have spent weeks there – and the camel trip to camp at the oasis sounds absolutely dreamlike. Next trip!!

    Have you ever visited the women from this co-operative? They were so gracious, and their products so amazing. I yearn for more of that delicious argan nut butter.

  3. I love how you put the experience in words. mashaallah. and I am so glad you left marrakech to be in nature. the desert is magical isn’t it? and next time you will visit the mountains, I hope…!!
    love and peace xxx

  4. How beautifully written and how true! An ode to the beautiful south, my first and true love in Morocco.
    Know what you mean about Marrakech. Even though we regularly flee the mountains for a day of city life and choice of food in the Marjane we always return home to Ourika feeling absolutely exhausted!

  5. Sara Morgan says:

    I’ m weeping as I read and look and am almost overwhelmed by a deep yearning I never realized I had.
    Thank you dear Nora for giving words (and stunning pictures) to this journey inward and out. But your words are pictures, and music, and prayer.
    You may now have clues about why New Mexico feels like the only place in America i can live. And it too, slowly paves paradise.

    • Yes I found that tears came easily to me on this trip…things seem to be concealed in their opposites…such richness and treasures to be found in the most barren places…much much love to you.

  6. I’m an e-mail subscriber of your blog and the other day I found this post while rummaging around, and I was inspired to write about my own desert journey in Morocco. Thank you! I’ve linked to your blog from mine.

    Looking forward to the next post!


  7. I imagine a trip to Morocco … Marrakech typical buy things, eat their meals and walk the narrow streets …. get on a camel and visit the desert, to wake up early in the morning and see the unique landscape … how nice!

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