Day 5: Tinghir and Toudra Gorges on the Journey to the Sahara, Phobias, Marriage Proposals, Nights in the Desert, New Connections | 18 May, 2014

May 21, 2014

We visited a farm in the valley of Tinghir.

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We got an explanation of the rug-making in the village, and a demonstration of the weaving and different types of rugs made. And we were offered mint tea, of course.

 

 

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We went to Toudra Gorges, where locals go to cool off on hot days. It was really chilly. Got my first marriage proposal of the day, with the guide telling me I should stay and he would make breakfast in bed and sing to me, if I did.

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Marriage Proposal #1 of the day

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I’ve told the Machu Picchu story here before; Mom spending all that very hard-earned money on a tour for us to go on, and not ten minutes into actually being inside the gate of the ruins, the guide presented us with an impossibly steep, crumbly set of “stairs” to climb. Between the acrophobia and the vertigo that comes with it, there was just no way I could. I was lucky that she was able to take us around on an alternate route, just she and I, since she had been there so many times.

So I didn’t take that tour, and I felt bad about the money part, but I ended up getting HER tour of Machu Picchu, and that’s what I remember the most, and so fondly.

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Make no mistake, she is posing.

All of this came back to me when I got on a camel to take a ride through the dunes at Erg Chebbi in the Sahara, and really only got as far as letting the camel stand. I completely panicked, my heart pounding, and the other 13 people in my tour group staring at me, confused.

So much shame.

But.

As it turned out, I made a significant connection with the man who facilitated the camel ride for the group. Hassan showed me kindness when the panic took me over, and answered me honestly when I asked about the comfort of the ride, since I was already overwhelmed just getting the camel to a standing position. “20 minutes would be fine,” he told me, “but almost two hours there and two hours back tomorrow is really too long”.

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That’s me in the orange, forcing a smile, tasting my own bile.

So instead, Hassan took me out to the dunes in his 4×4, just us. The driving is erratic at best, S-curving around some dunes, and taking the heights and falls of others straight on.

On our arrival, we headed to to the highest points on the dunes near the tent set up for our group. We sat and laughed and told each other about our lives, our families, little bits. Mostly we just sat in silence. The dunes are so quiet, you can hear a conversation people are having a quarter-mile away, at nearly a normal tone.

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at the edge of the dunes at Erg Chebbi

 

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Hassan

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top of the dunes

 

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visiting camels at bedtime

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When night fell, the clouds parted and we headed up to the dunes aain with blankets. Everything I can describe seems cliche; it was incredible. I could see networks of stars connecting the few I’m usually able to see. Suddenly, it felt like not only could you better understand the web that is the universe and all its interconnectedness, you could SEE it.

Hassan and I slept near each other on our respective cots. In the early morning, I awoke to him saying, “Quieres pasar la vida conmigo?” (We had been conversing in Spanish). I took his hand and told him he will find a good woman who will love him, and take care of him.

It’s not me. I am off to Sevilla.

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