Hotel Nomad Palace, a meeting point for travellers heading to Merzouga campsite. Said introduced us to Hassan, his cousin, and we met other travellers. (Life comes with surprises, and little did we know this was the beginning of beautiful friendships)
The room that we were brought to for a quick shower and prayers, had an open concept toilet. Only curtains covering the WC and shower area. Kinda uncomfortable since we are not used to it, but not all rooms are like that. Take note! Quite honestly, I was nervous about the desert stay. I’m so particular about washrooms, tendency not to sleep well in tents, etc. It’s been a while since I went for camps!
Past 6pm, it was time to ride on the camels. 1.5hr ride to the campsite! No wonder Said warned us it could be our first and last camel ride. The last time I rode on an animal was 4 years ago, on a horse in the outskirts of Madinah! I get very nervous with animals. We aren’t really best of friends. Haha.
The first thing that came to mind when I was struggling to get on the camel, was “how far and for how long did the Prophet travel?”
“In the name of Allah, and Praise be to Allah. Glory unto Him Who created this transportation, for us, though we were unable to create it on our own. And unto our Lord we shall return.”
I got restless. I couldn’t sit still. And I kept looking back cos Nihla’s camel keep getting closer and almost kissing my camel. Hilarious! Well, we survived the ride. Stopped for a while to capture a beautiful sunset.
The night at the tent was a bit different from what I imagined it to be. I was craving for grilled lamb (a whole lamb!). But well, our group was too small I guess. We had rice with beef tagine and fruits. Due to a miscommunication, we didn’t take bottled water from Nomad Palace, thinking there will be supply at the tent. Apparently, not. I was thirsty! A kind Spanish couple who brought their own wine, gave us their bottled water. We were so thankful for that.
We were entertained by Berbers, playing on their drums and clappers, which I tried and failed miserably. Hindi songs by Indian and Pakistani tourists, even by the local men. Hindi movies – you have conquered the vast desert! The tourists were surprised I could sing or hum to some popular songs.
A pity, the camera isn’t great enough to capture the happening night. A few things I’ve learnt in that one night:
1. Singapore is known as the Far East. Far and expensive (on point)!
2. Lame jokes and riddles are universal. The Moroccan guys told us a riddle that I’ve heard in my concrete jungle. “What are the 2 steps to put the elephant in fridge? How about 3 steps to put the giraffe in the fridge? The animals had a party. Why didn’t the giraffe join in the party?” HAHA
3. Stay in the desert, mingle with foreigners and you’ll master Spanish and French in no time. Ok, I have to stay in the desert.
It was just 2 of us in the tent of 4 beds. I barely slept cos there was a cat meowing (cat phobia) throughout the night and it felt so near, and someone was snoring loudly.
10 May 2014, Saturday
We were the first to be up at 4am for Subuh prayers. Despite the cold morning, we sat outside staring in awe, the star-studded sky. Such a pity that the rest of the group missed it. The night before it rained and stars were shadowed by the puffy clouds.
Nearing sunrise, the Spanish couple woke up to catch the sunrise. The husband signalled to me, “Come, see it here!” To think that Algeria was just there across the desert.
I witnessed how the camels woke their owners up. Probably for prayers? Hehe.
It was another 1.5hr camel ride to Nomad Palace. This time with Raoul and Mercedes.
The contours on the sand dunes, reminded me of the paddy fields in Bali. In the morning, the desert sand seems more refined and in a far more radiant orange hues than the previous day. To witness the changing hues of the golden sand sea was a moment of realisation of His creation.
After a simple breakfast at Nomad Palace, we continued our journey to Dades Valley.