Berbers, Bongos and Buddies
After our 8-hour trek, our driver dropped us off at a corner store so that we can get desert ware. We needed to buy long swaths of what looked like cut up sheets, that we would wrap around our heads and face to keep the sand off us and protect our skin from the sun. We then drove another mile or so and met our caravan of camels and the tribesmen that would lead them.
These were one hump camels that had thick wool blankets strapped on their backs. The tribesmen would take the reins of the camel and have them kneel. We were then instructed to climb on board and then the camel would rise back to its feet. Seems simple. That hump is steep and is very hard to get comfortable on. This was going to be a long hour and half ride into the desert. Once we were all mounted and on our camels the tribesmen began to walk. We now are about 8-10 feet in the air and trying to keep our position on the hump so that everything remains in balance, and as comfortable as possible, which is not as easy as it sounds. Though hot, the desert was beautiful as we marched towards the descending sun. Along the way, there were some large stones that the camels always seemed to miss with their massive feet. Eventually we came over a little knoll and could see the camp where we would be spending the night.
The camels knelt, we all got off and as we began to wander into the encampment, we were greeted and welcomed by the rest of the tribesmen. The tents were set up in a square, and in the middle were lots of heavy carpets and pillows, where we would gather for dinner and music. The Berbers prepared a traditional tribal meal, preparing it in front of us and then served family style as we gathered around. After dinner, they broke out tribal drums (like bongos) and other instruments and began to play music and sing songs. Soon they had us playing the bongos and started serving some type of homemade liquor, which tasted a lot like turpentine. Either way, it made for a festive evening. The night eventually wound down and it was time to go to sleep. However, it was still 90 degrees out and the closed tents were even hotter, so most of us chose to sleep out on the pillows and blankets were there was a slight breeze. Although sleep did not come easy, the beauty of the stars, with no artificial light to pollute its beauty was amazing and will never be forgotten.
The next day, we were treated to breakfast and showers (they did have tanks of water and had makeshift showers setup). We then mounted our camels and headed back to the astro van for the 8-hour journey back to Marrakesh. The trip back was unmemorable, because the “3 hour” trip had made so many memorable moments that it has now become a go-to story among our friends and will never be forgotten. Many Thanks to Friend Terry, though we cursed him for 8 hours, we will never forget our trip in the desert.