Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Berber Tents and Camel Rides

Of my time here one of my favorite trips has been to the Sahara. Waking up bright and early 19 people boarded a rickety old tour bus not sure of what that weekend would entail. Ally, Armaan, Hind, and I claimed the back seat for the first leg of the trip. We discussed all our favorite topics (boys, guys, and ex-boyfriends) and sang all the words to Boom Boom Pow and I Kissed a Girl. The exhausting ride there was split between this and seat hopping between Dodge and Jake discussing various topics. I must say as much as a 10 hour bus ride (with the radio blaring techno music in Arabic and the best hits of the 90's) through bumps and winding roads does not sound appealing I enjoyed getting to know these people that I would be spending the next few months with. Once the deliria kicks in people get honest and filters just seem to disappear…

Our first stop was in the Atlas Mountains. It was here that we saw beautiful trails and fed peanuts to some monkeys. We stopped in Azru for lunch, the hometown of one of our directors. Our destination in the end was Xaluca. An uppity tourist resort equipped with pools, tennis courts, spa, and restaurants. This was just the place that all the tourist who want the "real" experience but really don’t want the real experience come. Trust me... I didn't mind. After a nice buffet of pretty much anything you can think of it was time for dancing. Being the shy person that I am [haha] I hesitantly joined the belly dancers in swaying my hips. Soon everyone was pool side dancing with them. We were basically the only group there under the age of 55 so naturally European tourist gawked and discussed pushing us into the pool. In the Berber tents this old man kept asking me to dance. He moved his hips better than any girl in a club that I've seen. He tied me to him using a scarf and aided me in my "sway". Who knows but I may have become his next wife that night? Mashee Mushkeel (no worries).

And then the moment came. I was decked out in sun block and a blue scarf I faced the nerves that I built up and mounted my camel that had me 10 feet off the ground. It's hard to describe what a camel ride was like. There was a constant sway to the's like a waterbed and an amusement park ride mixed with slight dicomfort all in one! Hind took the pleasure of naming my camel "Rudy". My camel liked to do his own thing and leave the line and stop. A camel ride wasn't exactly what I thought it would be. It was definitely a ONCE in a lifetime experience. I appreciated it later, but at the time I felt as though I would never be able to have kids. We made a pit stop to watch the sunset. Breath taking is the only word I can use to describe to you what I saw. My pictures don’t do any justice to the scene. Remounting the camel we reached the camp about an hour later. Taking a much needed breather/stretch at the camp site some us sat around the campsite discussing first kisses and best dates. The evening was spent gazing at the moon on top of sand dunes and more dancing with Berbers.

The aching sound of drums and Hind's voice woke us up at 430 am to climb a sand dune to watch the sunrise. Despite the sand flies biting at your legs and face and getting sand in places that sand shouldn’t have been I enjoyed it. Knowing Algeria was just a ways away made it all the better.

Again we mounted the dreadful [oh I mean wonderful] camels and headed back to the hotel. I traded in Rudy for Fat Joe and it was wayyy better. Reaching the hotel a shower never felt better. I removed the camel stench and the troops loaded up in the bus yet again. Between endless games and group trivia I found myself at a gas station in the middle of nowhere with no western toilet and no toilet paper. It was AWESOME. However, it was interesting to see the large Allah, wadhan, malik written across the hills. It's translated as God, Country, King. It's stood as a symbol for so much. The legacy of colonialism is evident in the unity that is expressed through a phrase like this. In my cultural identities class we discussed the stability that Morocco yearns for and Islam and the Monarchy play the largest role in that. Living in Rabat ( a relatively liberal city) I have received mixed feelings about the king. Walking down the streets I wonder how the 7th richest king in the world and 3rd most important Muslim could leave so many of his people on the streets...IDK. I'll give that a little more thought before I elaborate...


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