Back into the desert

Andrew in the SaharaIn all our travels, even before this trip, we have seldom felt the need to return somewhere, seeking instead new adventures and landscapes. There was, however, never any question that we would return on our bikes to Morocco and in particular the magical world of the desert. There was still so much more to learn here. Time is short when you travel by bike so for this trip we went not by foot but by 4×4, first through the kasbahs of the Valley du Draa, where families tend large gardens and fight against the encroaching sand. As a changing climate means more sand in the earth and saltier water, these areas face an uncertain future over the coming decades. For now they are still filled with squares of green: wheat, carrots, beets and onions are all common crops. We carried on towards our campsite for the night, cradled in the dunes of Chegaga.

You can see a video of our first day in the desert with Brahim:

Inside a nomad tent at Chegaga, with baby HassanThere we had tea with a nomad family and marvelled at the woman’s ability to serve guests, feed her young son and work around the tent at the same time. We listened to the goat herds trot back for the night before retiring to our own tent where we dined on a tagine, with only the outline of the dunes cutting a shape across the starry sky.The second day we rose to the view of a blue sky and golden sand through the mesh of our tent, before going to a nearby well to watch nomad life. As we sat under a tree having lunch, two Berber women scrubbed a mountain of clothes and people came from tents in all corners of the horizon to exchange information with us. Where was there water, what did you see in M’hamid, who is camping by Chegaga? The Arabic telephone is the key to communication here, not the modern mobile. Once again we returned to the dunes to camp for the night and sang songs while the evening meal, a chicken couscous, bubbled away.

Our last day was again about experiencing Moroccan life close up, this time closer to the town of Zagora, where the family of our 4×4 driver lives in a simple home. The walls are made of mud and straw, there is little furniture aside from a few rugs and cushions in the sitting room and flour is milled by hand, after of course the wheat is grown and dried from nearby fields. We were in a reflective mood as we returned to Zagora. As always, the desert had given us plenty to think about.