October 6 was an interesting day; a morning and early afternoon in Merzouga, followed by a trek into the Sahara desert on camels to spend the night in a Bedouin tent.
First we drove to the lake near Merzouga. Following a small track in the hardened red earth that seemingly led to nowhere, we eventually crested a small rise to see a herd of camels grazing by a large lake. The scene, already a bit strange, was made even weirder by the teenage boys racing towards our car on beat up bikes to set up their wares. The futility of their plight was foremost on our minds as we drove away from the lake to climb (not easily) a huge dune outside of the town.
After cooling off from our morning adventures, we donned our togs and Laurence of Arabia style headdress for our camel trek out into the dunes to spend the night in a Bedouin tent.
Atop our mounts (really no different than riding a horse, including the saddle-sore rear end) we trekked for a couple of hours across the dunes in the capable hands, and hopefully compass, of our nomad guide Ahmed. In a moment of total incongruity when considering the place and dress, he pulled out his cell phone to chat in Arabic, perhaps letting the Bedouin camp know we were on our way.
Watching the sunset over the dunes, we arrived to camp in the dark and dismounted, took the blankets we rode on with us for our bedding and headed into the camp. Along with 3 other groups of tourists we settled around a small table in the sand while Ahmed prepared our dinner (of more Tajine) after hobbling the camels by bending their legs and tying it around the knee. (This was very cush for us, not so much for hard working Ahmed.) While dinner cooked, Ahmed sat with us and told us a bit about how his family had been nomads until the flood of 2006, when they moved to Merzouga and he became a guide. He said he loved it because he was learning so many languages and proceeded to teach us how to say camel in 8 different languages. After dinner Ahmed and another of the guides played drums and a spoonlike instrument for us while singing their tradition songs, based on the sound of animals running in a herd.
After some star gazing, we said goodnight to October 7 with our heads resting on sandbags in a Bedouin tent.