A Night in the Desert

The sand in the Sahara reminded me of the magic carpets that are sold in the rug shops of Moroccan medinas: the color was always changing. When the sun was high in the sky, the sand was bright orange; when the sun went down, it became a pale tan color. When I stood in the dunes, the sand seemed to go on forever. After climbing the 500-foot sand dune that towered over our desert camp, I got the feeling that I was just a speck of life living between the ripples of sand at the bottom of the sea. I was standing in a waterless ocean, where the only way out was up.

During the day, the air was hot and I prayed for the relief that would come as the sun began its descent in the sky. At night, the cold air slowly crept into the desert. When I woke up, I was colder than I had ever been before. My eyes shot open. I was freezing. (I knew I should have worn my fleece pants to bed.) Closing my eyes again, I reached a hand out from under the heavy camel-fur blanket. I tapped the ground next to me, in search of my phone. The blinding light from the screen illuminated my face. It was 3:30 a.m. Only two more hours until I had to wake up (again) to mount my trusty camel, Shaun—I’d given him that name on the trek from Merzouga—in order to leave our carpeted oasis and head for town.

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As I packed up my backpack to leave, it was still dark out. The moon was full, however, which eliminated the need for a flashlight. We were leaving early so that we could trek out of the desert during the sunrise. Enticed by the sound of camels in distress, I decided to see what was going on. Our camp was constructed of a series of provisional carpet forts arranged in a square, with a fire pit at the center. As I walked out, I was intercepted by two camels running away from their trainer, who quickly followed in pursuit. The pair didn’t get very far before the man caught them and tied them back down to a post in the sand. Joined by the rest of my friends, we approached our caravan and hoped that we wouldn’t experience any more camel revolts on the trek out of the desert.

We rode beneath the glowing moon for the first section of our journey, then greeted the sun as it reluctantly climbed into the sky. Slowly, the sky began to brighten and pigments of pink and yellow splashed across the horizon, painting it with cotton-candy streamers until the golden rays of the sun pierced the atmosphere. The rising sun turned the dunes a reddish hue as the grains of sand continued to give way under the weight of our caravan. Merzouga was in sight, and it was time to leave the Sahara behind.

—Hannah Buckley

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