Merzouga, Morocco was more than just suffocating heat, Berber pizza and goats. It’s December. So obviously, that means a special day is coming up. That’s right! Let’s celebrate animals.
In our three day “Camel Trek” from Merzouga through the black desert almost reaching the border with Algeria, Kimberly and I got very close to our camels. Physically, of course. There was, however, a language barrier.
The popular term is camel, but in reality, the animals we see as “camels” in Morocco aren’t actually camels. The one-humped furry creatures you see in the photos below are called Dromedaries.
Although they their pungent stench was overbearing at times, their batting eyelashes, patient stance and gentle grandeur were endearing qualities.
While most of the time we weren’t riding them they were at the well drinking water or grazing far in the distance, sometimes they were relaxing calmly nearby. Watching them regurgitate their food and chew it back up, I was partial to their unique chewing. Here is a video of me trying to imitate it.
On our last day in the desert, we had spent many uneventful hours in a small, one-roomed hut. Accosted by the blistering heat we were confined to this space, save photography outings to do the goat photo shoots and a few quick visits to the well for a Berber shower. Camels drink water, we dump it on our heads.
Around dusk, we were finally preparing to leave the desert and return to Merzouga. In the long hours we had been in the abandoned village hanging out with goats, Ahmed had let the dromedary camels wander.
Ahmed left to find the camels. He was gone for at least 20 minutes. When he came back, the camels sat outside the room, waiting for us to grab the uneaten food, the water canteen, and the utensils. Ahmed was tying up my favorite Decathalon backpack to the saddle as he started to look nervous. “We can’t leave yet,” he said, “There’s a storm coming.”
The wind had picked up. Just as we got our hopes up to finally leave the trappings of the abandoned town, we had to wait longer. We took shelter inside the hut and left the camels outside. Although I was worried about them being left out in the storm, I realized this was what they were engineered for.
When we saw the pellets of sand hitting our dear friends, I was glad we hadn’t have left yet. They stood unflinching through the hour of fierce wind and sand. They shut their eyelids and at some points had to move slowly from side to side. Meanwhile, we were inside the room re-watching the same videos and looking at the same photos we had all day in the midst of our previous boredom.
Just like the wind, they were strong. I admire their ability to withstand such unpleasant conditions. Those sassy little beards and coarse tufts of hair on their heads make them seem like little lions.
As soon as the wind died down, we mounted our camels and headed through the black desert. Ahmed had decided that although the storms could continue, we had to leave now – or it was never. We took our chances. We didn’t want to have more Berber pizza. The storm hit again twice on our ride back (see this video for my dramatic interpretation of riding a camel). We were hot, sticky, sweaty and tired. Yet our faithful companions took us back to safety, slow, steady, and unafraid.
The ride itself was rather uncomfortable. As a result, I left with an achy back, painfully sore inner thighs and ankle tightness. But if there was anything I’d like to ride and hurt my groin area on, it’s my strong and majestic friends of the animal kind.