Monday Travel Memory: The Sahara

Happy Monday, ya’ll. How was the weekend? Jaro and I checked out the Portland Seafood & Wine Festival (which was awesome), met a friend for drinks, and tried a new-to-us sports bar for the Superbowl. Wasn’t wow-ed by the game or the commercials, or the bar… but at least we’re getting out.

So. I’m on a sunshine kick these days. I guess that after living in Amsterdam and now Portland, I relish any moment that I can (or did) soak up some Vitamin C. And sometimes, the sun can truly be art, no? Since it’s on my mind so much, thought I’d share one of my favorite images from our trip to the Sahara Desert last winter:

Sahara Desert

I love how the sun is a giant, bright, white ball in a cloudless, blue sky above those truly spectacular dunes. So simple, yet there aren’t enough words to describe it. Pretty sure Jaro and I just stood there, alone, like a coupla idiots, staring at it as it slowly dipped behind the sea of sand. Awe-inspring.


Morocco Part 2: Rock the Kasbah

Actually it’s more like a hard place than a rock, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

So… Where did I leave off? Ah yes, getting ready to spend the day in the tiny desert town, M’Hamid. We set off from the kasbah once we were clean showered and walked through the ancient ruins in the old town area. It was really beautiful. Along the way, however, we were aggressively approached several times to take a tour (Already did, thanks!!) and several small children begged us for money. It appeared that we were the only foreigners staying in town. After stumbling into a family-run kasbah, we stayed for a quick 2-hour lunch of pigeon and vegetable tagine, followed by oranges with cinnamon and salt as seen here:

Traveler Tip: Don’t bother with the pigeon. It does not taste like chicken. In fact, it doesn’t taste like anything and your mouth is sore by the time you chew through it. Very tough meat.

Strolling back to the new town, we had a lazy afternoon of mint tea drinking. No complaints here. We followed that by devouring another tagine dinner and smoking shisha (relax, it’s just flavored tobacco) with our kasbah owner and sharing travel stories. And another early night since we had to be on the bus the next morning at 6:00am. Since we were the only travelers staying there, we had plenty of peace and quiet.

This is when we had official scare #2.

Per usual, I woke up before the alarm (I always do when I know I have an early morning). It was only 4:30am. I had another hour, but I even roused Jaro awake because I was wide-eyed. Unamused, he turned over. (Hmph)

Laying there, annoyed with myself for not being able to fall back asleep, is when I heard it. Something got knocked over outside like a can or bucket. At 4:30 in the morning, that was strange. I shook Jaro awake again.

A few minutes later, we could see a sliver of light appear under our door. Someone turned on the hallway lamp. Let me remind you that a kasbah is just a mudbrick hut. No outside door, just a hallway with small rooms off it (the bedroom had a door that we locked). But, anyone could walk into the hall. And we were at the edge of the Sahara, the last town before Algeria.

Insert sweating palms, pounding hearts and shaking bodies here.

We heard footsteps. And doors opening. Our room was the last one in the hall.

Then we saw feet in front of our door. Followed by someone trying our door handle.

…This is bone-fide horror film material (or at least the makings for a decent Stephen King novel). Now, I cannot even tell you the amount of terror that was ripping through my body in those few moments. I can’t even describe it. Strangely, the most consuming thought in my mind was how loudly, how forcefully, my heart was beating. It was deafening, and I thought it was going to explode out of my chest. Jaro later acknowledged that even he could hear it. I have never been so scared in my life. I fully expected that we were about to be kidnapped. “It can’t be a hotel employee because all the available rooms have the key sitting in the door, except ours since we locked ourselves in here.” “All of them know it’s just us.” “The only weapon in here is the damn floor lamp.” “Do I scream?” “…Or is the owner in on it?” Before going, I had told Jaro, “We better not die; that would really piss off our moms.” “Shit!”

All of those thoughts raced through my mind in the few seconds it took Jaro to yell out, “HEY.” We heard feet shuffling and then some voices. We probably laid there frozen for 10 more seconds before Jaro got up to listen at the door. Apparently it was some tourists arriving (VERY unexpectedly) in the middle of the night because Jaro could make out the word “dromedary” (Arabian camel). Then a woman’s voice speaking French. Then doors closing and the light shutting off. Then silence.

Insert sigh of relief.

The takeaway from this is that we instilled the fear inside ourselves. We had never encountered anyone suspicious or had any true reason to be afraid. We just were.

It made us think about the reason why we travel. Especially to locations like this, or solo (remember my Ireland story?). Are we just torturing ourselves? The answer is absolutely not. We are challenging ourselves. Making our lives richer, more interesting and exciting. We’re learning about the world in a way that you can’t through a textbook or video. It is making us stronger, kinder, smarter, and (most proudly) braver.

Would I go back? Absolutely. Will I be afraid? Maybe. But what is travel without getting out of your comfort zone?

More on our last few days spent in Morocco, touring Marrakech, coming soon…

(That’s it for the scares, btw)