We had our Sahara engagement today with camels, sand, sun, and Berber (Amazigh) but the day actually turned out to be much different. I woke up with a massive ear ache in my left year after sleeping with ear plugs due to the paper thin walls at our otherwise luxury Sahara lodge (see more about it here). My cold had also gotten worse, as it had started to move beyond just my throat and had impacted my sleep. I was not a happy camper and was seriously considering bailing on the Sahara engagement that day.
Brendan tried really hard to convince me to tough it out, in a kind of harsh and non-empathetic way (I assumed because he had habitual ear, nose, and throat issues and he thought I was being a sissy). I mustered up the strength to at least join the Gate 1 group on the basic Erfoud city tour in the morning, and was leaning towards opting out of the optional but already pre-paid Sahara engagement (camels, desert) etc in the afternoon. Brendan went to breakfast alone and came back with a ton of energy and again sternly urged me to go with him because he wouldn’t enjoy it without me (guilting strategy).
The morning tour was challenging as we were placed in the back of the bus and I was concerned about nausea due to my ear issues. A very kind couple, Nalini and Ravi, who we had befriended on the tour offered to switch with us so we could sit near the front. I felt extremely grateful. Our first stop was to tour the village of Rissani, which honestly ended up being a blur.
First we went to a mausoleum of Moulay Ali Sharif, who was the founder of the Alawite Dynasty (which is the current ruling family of Morroco). This dynasty began in the 17th century. We were really only allowed in the courtyard, but M’hamed used the time to explain more about the plants and fruit trees local to the area. Here’s a date tree.
There were also some beautiful geometric patterns I was able to capture.
As well as some good angled shots.
I know that after the mausoleum we walked through the Rissani market area where we viewed the area where livestock was traded as well as fruits, vegetables and spices (more for locals). Although it was NOT market day today, there was still some activity in preparation for market the following day.
After the market, we took a quick detour to a pharmacy where M’hamed helped me find some antibiotic ear drops that I immediately began applying to seek some relief. Brendan visited with the school children in nearby Erfoud and distributed the gifts we brought them while I stayed on the bus and did this, still trying to make it to our Sahara engagement.
By the time Brendan returned I had applied the drops and the waiting game began. Luckily, we still had one more stop until our Sahara engagement – the macro-fossil factory also in Erfoud. It was somewhat interesting but a bit too long and too much time for shopping. We did end up buying a small soap-dish/spoon holder.
Next up was the Sahara engagement, and the good news was that the meds worked and I was feeling on the mend. So, we got in our Land Cruiser with our Xaluca guide Ali.
Feeling better moment by moment, it was time to fuel up before the camel ride.
It was a lot of the same stuff we had been eating for a week, but prepared nicely for being in the middle of the desert. There were also excellent working toilets.
After lunch, we drove to a working Bedouin camp in the desert of Erg Chebbi, in the Merzourga area. This was a Amazigh woman of nomadic tribe weaving a panel for the side of one of the tents.
The next stop was our real Sahara engagement complete with camel ride, but before that, we had to dress properly.
Next up, camels!
And off we went.
Even though I was tired and still not feeling perfect, the camel ride was fun and rewarding.
We made it to our final stop, and I was pretty tired. Of course, Brendan wanted to climb to the top of the highest sand dune. OMG, this was the last thing I wanted to do, reminding him that I was sick and that we had a perfectly good view from where we were.
We got to the smaller of two dunes with this view to the right of us when he went down on one knee for my real Sahara engagement.
Here’s some views from the Sahara engagement spot:
We spent the next 30 minutes before sundown enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the desert, the sunset, and being in each others company – newly affianced. We had fun in the super cheesiness of the moment. Our guides indulged and even encouraged us.
We made our way back down from the dunes pulled down on a carpet and our names written in the sand.
Of course we also managed to bring some sand back from the spot where Brendan proposed.
The camel ride back to the cars was full of emotion still, and we treasured every moment. An hour later, we were back at the hotel.
Dinner was just a little bit different since we were just slightly different. And, this little lady greeted us in front of the hotel restaurant.
It was a special day and a special night. Brendan explained over dinner (and the beautiful bottle of champagne that our fellow Gate 1 traveler Steven generously bought us to celebrate our Sahara engagement) that he was shitting bricks all morning. Every time I mentioned that I was going to bail out, his stomach would twist in knots further around the quickly unraveling plan. He worked hard to keep it together all day and I appreciated the situation from a new angle. Brendan, the uber-planner that he was, has been planning this one for 2 months. He even had our engagement ring jeweler leave him a fake voicemail saying that the ring we had chosen prior to traveling was ready for pick-up, throwing me off the scent. He had it hidden in a sock in his backpack the entire time – the same backpack I have rifled through at least 3 times looking for all sorts of things during the first part of our trip.
But, it was still a surprise. Even though I had considered that it was a possibility on this trip, I had dismissed it as too risky. His risk paid off, and now we were both reaping the reward.
Our Sahara engagement (and the double entendre that is now fairly obvious) was a great success, despite the universe seemingly trying to conspire against Brendan all day. 🙂