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Dribble Castles

We’re on our way up to the coast from a fantastic few days on the edges (and a couple of nights in) the Sahara.

Some of you might know that the word ‘sahara’ means ‘desert’. And a desert it is. But in Morocco, indoors and outdoors, and inhabited and uninhabited, and desert and oasis, tend to blend. What that means is that Zagura, less than half an hour from the “Warning: You are entering the desert. Water is scarce,” signs, is a gorgeous, bustling small city, with pink buildings and date palms as far as the eye can see. We could actually pick dates from the roof of the hotel, if we put our lives just a tiny bit on the line, which is well worth it: I don’t even like dates. But these are magical. These dates are like candy.

We had the opportunity to visit a few casbahs. That’s where I get the title–the few we’ve seen prior to this leg of the trip were distant and in disrepair, and reminded me of that particular breed of sandcastle. That’s because they’re made of mud, and once you move out and stop re-mudding the walls every few years, they’ll begin to wash away. That impermanence belies the fact that the casbahs we visited had stood for five or six-hundred years. These intricately-constructed, climate-controlled communities are still home, in some cases, to hundreds of families apiece, not to mention hotels, souks, mosques, and at least one really kickass history museum focused on the history of different tribes in the area. The interactive birthing room (complete with a strap to pull on during labor, perfume to spray your guests with before they enter, and a real live plastic baby in swaddling clothes) was a highlight.

And then we went to the desert proper. We got there in the late afternoon, and it was windy. The sand acts like a liquid. It’s so fine it goes straight through your socks, and blows in little rivers. The sun was starting to set, and through the sand it all looked silver. The wind was literally blowing the breath out of my mouth, but no matter what the weather it still would have been breathtaking. I’ve never dreamed of going to the desert. I couldn’t imagine what beauty there could be where there was no life. I wasn’t prepared for it. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a landscape before, even in Morocco, that was totally foreign to me, until the Sahara. But I was caught off-guard, and in moments of surprise you can really feel the awe you should. That’s what I think, anyway.

My camera died at that moment.

So I rolled around in the sand with everybody else.