We were woken up at the stroke of 5:00 am. Youssef wanted to reach the base camp before the temperatures soared. There was barely anything to pack and we bade our one night desert camp goodbye.
Youssef was taking us back along a different route. By the time we had crossed several dune, the sky had started to light up. I climbed up a steep dune in time to see the sun peep above the farthest dune.
Sand, mostly sand and more sand! Literally hundreds and hundreds of swirling caramel and beige sand dunes as far as the eyes could see. The slanting rays of the sun are playing havoc with sand, eking out rich shades of ochre, brown and gold.
This is the Big Nothingness, the Infinite Emptiness , the largest sand desert of them all. I was standing on the western most tip of “the great sea of sand in which no oar will ever be dipped”. From this point Sahara stretches all the way across North Africa right up to the land of the pharaohs, larger than the distance between the two coasts of America. The desert covers many countries – Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Sudan before laying the carpet under Egypt and merging with the Sinai mountain range. Some regions of this utterly desolate landscape has not seen rainfall in decades. Yet a throbbing nomadic community – Touregs, Moors and Chaamba – have made peace and deal with it daily.
Peter O’Toole’s character in the motion picture Lawrence of Arabia is told, “Only two kinds of creatures get fun in the desert. Bedouins and gods.” Probably that is true. In a remote corner of my mind, the corner that tracks wistful wishes, a tiny post-it with “Sahara as a Bedouin” got tacked. It would get tracked. “Sahara like a Bedouin” would eventually happen. For some time, some other time.
For now, I run down the dune to catch up our little caravan.
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