I have been constantly returning to the Sahara, and my last visit was the fifth in a row. Every visit was full of excitement and surprises. I feel like this place has become my second home. This year, I decided to travel there for a fortnight.
My first visit to the Sahara Desert was in 2010, when I decided to travel to Morocco for a month with a friend. In Fez, we met a young man who directed us to a small, authentic auberge in Sahara. He gave us a farewell gift in the form of hashish and cheerfully commented that we should not visit the desert without it because it’s part of a perfect combination: being in company of locals, enjoying hashish, and spending nights on the dunes under the sky full of stars. We had no idea what he was talking about, but we accepted the gift gratefully.
After a long ride we arrived in the desert and for the first time in my life, I felt something that I have never felt before: I felt connected to the place where I just arrived. The desert and its dunes impressed me. The feelings of freedom, silence, and peace comes naturally in that wide open space. It captivated me, made me feel like I belonged there. This connection only grew stronger with all the people I met as well as with the things and events that happened. We spent the evening with Berbers by the fire, playing drums and enjoying ourselves. I never wanted to leave.
That’s how it all started. The natives of the desert are really special, and I have to admit that they taught me a lot. They are so simple, are happy with what they have. But most importantly, they know how to live in the present and make the most of every day. After all, tomorrow is a new day and we have no idea what will happen then.
Perhaps the most important thing they showed me are the different colors of the world that I never knew existed. We grew attached and formed strong friendships. I left a part of my heart there.
Since then I have been constantly returning to the Sahara, and my last visit was the fifth in a row. Every visit was full of excitement and surprises. I feel like this place has become my second home. This year, I decided to travel to Sahara for a fortnight. I bought a plane ticket and took off.
My friend Hassan waited for me at the airport, and immediately we went for an 11-hour drive to the desert. Because I traveled for quite a long time and we managed to get on a late bus from Marrakesh, we decided to stop by his little lake house located near Errachidia where we arrived at 4 a.m. The bus driver let us off in the middle of nowhere. We got off and walked to the lake in the moonlight.
After taking a rest, our morning tea, and having a “shower” in the nearby river, we were ready to hitchhike to Errachidia, Rissani, and Sahara.
In the afternoon, we arrived in the desert and met with our friends. We prepared and packed a lot of things, food, and water which we loaded on a camel. After, we left for the mainland and its dunes. Our group included Hassan, Hamid, Kerche, Ibrahim, Black star, and myself.
We had dinner and a little party afterwards. We drank beer, talked, and laughed. I brought along two of my favorite cameras, the Canon AE-1 and the Diana Mini. The latter stopped working in the desert after many years of capturing memories. I took a few portraits of people who made the desert even more special.
Wanting to see the magical desert sunset, Kerche and I went to one of the highest dunes. While waiting, I took these photos:
Kerche is a boy who I met five years ago and fell in love with. But over the years our relationship grew into a really pleasant, truly sincere friendship. It is beautiful to know and have such a friend who is painfully honest, caring, and full of life. He taught me a lot and changed my perspective on the world. My desert soulmate, I call him.
The photo below was taken when I visited Sahara last time, and it is my dearest, all-time favorite. I named it, waiting for me. The story of how I took it is that when I went to get a new film, I looked back and was left breathless by the scene: beautiful lighting, dunes, the golden color of the sand, the contrast of his blue djellaba, and the period of waiting for my return.
Let me introduce you my dear friend, who I call uncle Hassan. He’s such a big person with an even bigger heart full of love. We have conversations about literature, relationships, language (he teaches me Arabic)—we never run out of topics to talk about. He makes a lot of jokes and he also makes me laugh every time.
An African proverb I heard not so long ago says, "When an old man dies, it is like a library disappearing”. He is not old, but he is full of knowledge, nevertheless.
This is the lovely, kind, and shy Ibrahim, who took care of us and, most importantly, made sure that we didn’t go hungry.
On the morning of the last day, when I was leaving the inland of the desert, I woke up and realized that everyone was gone. At first I was a little confused but quite quickly found out that one of the camels was missing, and that my friends were looking for her everywhere since it wandered away. They returned after they found her.
We walked for an hour until we arrived at the border of the desert. It was time to say goodbye. But since everything that happens in the desert involves a lot of surprises, our farewell was a big one, too. Kerche came with a motorcycle and drove me through the dunes. It was crazy! I was screaming while holding him tight, and he only yelled back, “Don’t worry, baby, don’t worry.”
It was hard for me to leave. I barely held my tears in while I hugged my friends in the hopes of seeing them again. Ila likaa shara dzamila!
On my way back I stopped by Rissani, where I visited the market, bought some spices, and took a look at a donkey parking lot, where many donkeys find their sweethearts.
I ended my travel in Marrakesh, a wild city with the distinct aroma of ambergris.
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