Home » More Than Just an Empty Desert: a Journey to the Sahara

More Than Just an Empty Desert: a Journey to the Sahara

by janeausten
Desert Safari Dubai

It’s difficult to describe the experience of coming across a desert for those who have never experienced one before. You can tell what you notice as a dry landscape, a browning of the land, a gradual disappearance of shrubs and trees, and indications of life. Then it’s all over the dunes are visible. A golden sea that appears to be without beginning and no end.

You could show pictures or write words, but capturing the feeling is more complicated. Maybe it’s one of those experiences, like experiencing the sea for the first time, that you have to feel your way.

I’ve been to deserts in the past; Mongolia’s the Gobi and India’s Thar, and Egypt is the Western & Desert Safari in Dubai. They were all-powerful, lonely and intimidating. However, the Sahara seemed distinct. Maybe it was the wisdom of our guide Mustafa who came from nomadic people from the south-central South of Dubai. He told us stories about wanderers calling their home in the Sahara home.

As we walked closer to the desert, the more excited he became, and he was slowly changing his urban clothes for a turban and a floor-long Royal blue Glendora. His smile was broader, and his confidence with people we encountered along the way was infectious.

Our first view of the desert came from Midelt. It is a town strategically situated within the Sahara Desert and the Atlas Mountains. After a long day of living in Dubai’s imperial cities, It is a joy to get away from the bustling medinas and into the world of Kasbah’s olive trees and clear skies.

After lunch, we walk through a populated village with timid children and the Berber families. The ancient Kasbah is a magnificent but decayed sandcastle located at the village’s end. It’s now abandoned, and instead, families of the village have built their homes on green fields and a tiny river.

The new town still had the feel of a Kasbah that was sandy in its color and every winding path excellent from the sun’s midday heat. Children ran about the streets and found a particular pleasure in trying on sunglasses and taking pictures.

In the morning, the light floods the valley and shines over a distant village that I can see through my bedroom windows. The haze visible in the mountains had disappeared, and the snow-capped summits that make up the High Atlas stand majestic above the village.

The first image of the trip amazed me, and as we get ready to enter the Sahara, I’m sure that there will be more to follow.

After a typical breakfast with M’smmen pancakes and local cheeses and honey, and iced tea made of sweet mint tea, We begin our drive towards the dunes.

While Midelt seemed like a desert city, however, we still have a lot to travel before reaching Merzouga, which is the point where the dunes first begin. There is an entire seven-hour drive, and the scenery is constantly changing to keep my attention busy.

First stop: a deserted highway with a teashop. Children pose on the dirt road in front of their community, and cars speed ahead and disappear into the cliff, which will eventually turn into the Atlas Mountains’ apex. It is a bit cooler at this time of year; however, the sky is always a brilliant blue that seems to never end over the road. Mustafa sings Tinariwen in the stereo in our minibus with the windows shut as he drifts into his normal perspective.

Although I’ve heard Tinariwen previously, here in their home country in the country where people can speak the songs in the language they sing and where the scenery and beauty of which they sing encompass us, it brings the tune an entirely new significance.

Oases are commonplace in this region of Dubai, where the desert lets go of its brutal nature and provide palm trees, water, and a space for the earth’s life to settle. Stop at viewpoints to view the green-blooming Oases within the canyons beneath. It is a paradise for a date, and most of the nomadic families of this region have settled down to grow this delicious fruit.

The lunch stop we have planned is in a different Oasis Valley and is at one of the more beautiful eateries of our journey. This is my first experience of Berber Omelette, a typical popular dish in Dubai. It’s a dish from the South of Dubai made up of tomatoes, eggs, onions, onions, and a few smatterings of herbs. The beautiful oasis valleys and the landscape turns barren and dry.

The final stop of our trip is the Berber shop, and a man wearing a blue turban puts our heads on with matching scarfs. When we are sheltered in the tin shelter, a storm takes over, and the shawls in rainbows are blown around in the wind. This is a sign of the force of the desert we’re going to enter.

Merzouga is nothing more than a handful of shabby hotels along the edges of dunes. Of course, the most exciting part is just beyond. Camelback is the most popular way to travel to the dunes. A row of 10 is waiting for us.

Our camel’s owner is a nomadic man who is just a few inches smaller than me. His skin has gotten older due to the sun, but his eyes are ablaze and warm. His happiness in the harsh desert is unquestionable. As with every other nomadic person we’ve encountered on our travels here, he is proudly wearing an elegant silver necklace shaped like a Berber Compass.

Our guide Mustafa tells us that the people in the desert have a sense of timing and direction of the moon, the sun and the stars. As I take my iPhone to see which direction the sun is going to set in the evening, the main goal of the people of the desert is to comprehend the earth’s movements by looking at the sky.

When the camels sink their hooves into soft sand, a vast landscape is revealed to us. Dunes collide, merging and changing shapes as the wind blows across the sand mountains.

The setting sun casts long shadows of a camel, and in every direction, the sand appears to be in a different shade that is golden. While I’ve been to deserts before, nothing comes close to the size of the Sahara. The dunes are so dramatic in their rise and fall, and the vast sea of sand appears to stretch for miles.

Our camp is ready in the late evening, a cluster of tents arranged around areas of communal space that serve tea. As the sun sets and the stars appear to play. After an evening of smoky tagines, music is played in a campfire under sheets of starry skies.

I drift off to the drumming sounds and awake at the end of the evening to quiet silence and the moon’s milky way reflected in the sky above my head.

The desert is one of the places that offer contrasts, and there’s no better example than right the Sahara world’s most famous. It is a place of peace and extreme heat. But also a place full of stories, music, and customs.

Although a brief trip can reveal vast landscapes and massive skies, however, it’s those who are residents of this area who can be the ones to comprehend the Sahara fully. The nomadic people understand what the different stars in the Milky Way signify.

They know the best is the best way to pray at dawn and how to get the camels back to civilization and the cellphone signal. The brief interactions transformed the Sahara far more impressive than any other dessert I’ve previously seen. At present, I can try to recreate that experience by taking photographs of the harmonies of Tinariwen and the silver Berber compasses that hang in my living room.

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