About fifteen kilometers from the Algerian border, we – several minivans full of tourists – lined up in a caravan of dromedaries and set off in the slowly fading sunlight of the Sahara. The scorching sun threw our shadows onto the ground; I reached into my backpack often to pull out a small bottle of water while trying to keep my five-litre bottle from falling off the camel as it bumped and heaved its way through the shifting sand.
That night, post-chicken tagine and drumming, I sat on a sand dune; after telling a guide who almost immediately sat down next to me that I’d like to have alone time, I lay back in the sand and sang along to the music in my iPod while gazing at an almost-full moon and a few visible constellations.
And then because three hours on a camel without stirrups wasn’t punishing enough on my thighs, I did it again the next night, during which I skipped the drumming and climbed to the top of the dune to relax (once again having to politely decline the company of the same guide, who this time walked all the way up the side of the dune and came down behind me – blerg).
This is easily the most touristy thing I’ve done this whole trip – we stopped at several scenic viewpoints for five minutes each before being hurried back into the van, were pushed to buy souvenirs at a filming site, and were ushered into a traditional rug shop ostensibly to watch a loom demonstration that quickly devolved into a lengthy advertisement.
That being said – I’d do it all again, if only for the stars and the sand. And the delightful presence of an Italian guy with a beard, corn rows, denim hot pants that showed his butt crack, and a rolled-up shirt from which his belly protruded. You can’t put a value on that.