The camel ride begins – it is late afternoon, we have packed a day pack with warm clothes, sleeping bags and gin and tonics. Adil has tied our turbans, Mohammed has the camels ready to go. It is time. We mount up one by one and with some extraordinary contortions and miracle we are up and off. It takes some getting use to – I thought early on that perhaps a quad bike trip might have been a better idea, but I soon find my rhythm.
We are torn between whether we enjoy this movement or whether we we will be damaged for life by it. I decide I like it, and am soon hands free (on the flat at least) and able to relax and be in the magic of the moment.
Only problem is that my camel suddenly decides to sit down. Luckily I am onto it and grab hold quickly – the camels are roped tightly together so the others start to sit down too, a rope breaks. It seems that my camel is a new one, and that perhaps a lighter person might be better. I try not to feel bad about this as I climb up on another camel, and pray that this one keeps walking.
An hour or so later we arrive at the camp – an old oasis surrounded by giant sand dunes.. There are several encampments – ours is the shabbiest, but of course the best – a small group, great guides and everything we need and nothing we don’t.
Mohammed puts down the carpet on the sand, a few cushions appear, a table and some mint tea. He then goes off to cook tagine, and we break out the gin and tonics. Adil has packed in a water pipe, and some of us try some apple tobacco – very tasty before it burns my throat and I have a coughing fit.
The tagine that night was the best we had in Morocco, and it was not long before we were tucked up under the million stars of the African sky. Not much sleep, but who cares, with a view like that (though I had to put my glasses on to see it!)
Before dawn we were up climbing the sand dune behind us to watch the sunrise – yes my friends that was me – up before dawn. I did not make it right to the top of the dune, but far enough. There might have been 100 of us up there all told, but mostly there was only the sound of the rooster as we sat on the golden sand and watched the beginning of another day.
It is hard to not be religious at such a time – what other framework is there to embrace such a sight. To be thankful for the gift of a new day, to give yourself to the day, to be open to what the day offers and what you will offer in it. To be open to God, to live with God, to be of God, to be God.
After all this time out of the Anglican church and formal christianity, I can find no better word but God to use at a time such as this – Love, the universe nothing else seems big enough to embrace what I mean.
Riding camels into the Sahara Desert – it is like a dream that other people have – and here I am living it. It is something I will always carry with me.