Riding on the back of a camel under the bright sun of the Sahara, I looked around me, surprised to see so many trees and bushes. All I had was a single backpack stuffed with warm clothes for the night, and more water than I usually drink in an entire week. On my head I wore a purple headscarf, which reminded me of my mother because she loves to see me in that color. As I wandered deeper into the desert on a camel I named Rufus Rufus—I figured I’d have a better chance of remembering its name if I gave him the same name twice—I noticed how the greenery was disappearing. We approached our camp and before us was nothing but an endless ocean of orange sand.
The camp was two circles of large black tents with blankets covering the doorway. Inside they had beds, a toilet, sink, and shower. This was the moment I realized I would be living up to my true desert princess potential. I placed my backpack on my bed and changed into sandals, figuring that the sand would feel like hot rocks on my feet after being in the sun all day like the sand at the beach. Leaving the tent, I took my first steps in the shoes, realizing it would be very annoying to climb the dunes like this, so I took them off and let my feet hit the sand for the first time. To my surprise, the sand was cool and soft, so I carried my shoes with me as I ascended my first dune. At the top I was greeted with the most dazzling view of the desert, with the sun shining brightly over my head. It was such a perfect temperature that I was comfortable in my navy-blue flowy pants and grey shirt. A breeze blew the sand at me from all angles, ensuring that I was covered from head to toe.
From this first dune, there was an even taller one a short distance away, and I decided it would be the perfect place to watch the sun set. I carried up a snowboard so I could ride it on the way down. As I climbed, I realized that I had been skipping cardio at the gym far too often, because I was out of breath.
Once at the top I sat with a deep sigh, letting my legs rest from a workout I knew would make me sore the next day. After catching my breath, I took a good look around me to see an even more breathtaking sight than before. It appeared as though the desert stretched out to the ends of the earth, covered by mountains upon mountains of dunes.
I stayed there for about an hour watching the sun make its way across the sky until it hid itself behind the dunes in the distance. Taking in one last deep breath, I stood up and walked over to where I left the snowboard, and slid my way down the hill. I stopped on my way back to camp to let the view really soak into my memory, while the sky above me slowly made the transformation from light to the darkness of night. Stars began to come out of hiding, one by one, until they filled the sky. It was as if the dippers, Orion’s belt, and so many more constellations wanted to display themselves just for me.
Early the next morning, I woke up and took an ATV further into the desert to watch the sun rise. As I drove, I felt like a child playing real life Mario Kart. I smiled, thinking of my dad and how he would be having just as much fun, if not more, riding these around with me. We reached our destination, and before me was a dune bigger than the one I had climbed the day before, which I didn’t think was possible. It wasn’t a pretty climb, and it wasn’t fast, but I trudged my way up the hill to be amazed at the sights before me. When it was time to head back, I made my descent down the dune, taking in half of the desert sand in my sneakers.
I drove back to the hotel where I showered, ate breakfast, and prepared myself for a long day of bus and train rides back home to Tangier. The trip would give me plenty of time to think about the once-in-a-lifetime night in the dunes that I will cherish for the rest of my life.