20111218





The night I slept in a camp in the Sahara dunes was one of the most enchanting moments of my life. The Sahara is the largest desert in Africa and during the trip to the tall dunes of Erg Chigaga, we came across a changing landscape of plateaus, gravel plains, and sand. In the vast landscape, that seemed empty and rough, I was suddenly surprised by the encounter with a few nomadic groups in their daily routines. Recognizing people or camels in the desert felt like a mirage, a breakdown of the order on how I had known up to that instant things to be or humans to live.

It was very windy. It was immeasurably hot. The sky was continuously changing. It was very dry... and unexpectedly, it started drizzling.
Rain is very rare in the Sahara desert and the rain became heavy for a few minutes before coming to an end. Seeing rain in the desert felt as unusual as stepping into an oasis of date palms and a spring.

We arrived to the camp under a heavy sandstorm. We found shelter in
one of the tents serving as a gathering space where the temporary community of foreigners and locals came together to share mint tea, to sit and relax. When the wind and sand storm ended I went for a long walk in the dunes. After a difficult walk in the soft sand, I was there, on my own sand dune. I saw the white sun of the desert, an infinite horizon, a line of camels, nomads and explorers finding their own dune and to sit in silence. I saw people, whose faces I do not remember -- figures wrapped in fabric in the middle of the thousand tones of the sand and the sky.

The food was cooked in the camp, served outdoors, over beautiful handmade rugs, pillows, and low tables. We shared the meal with the locals. They were wearing the blue attire characteristic of one of the Berber people, the blue men of the Sahara. Soon, they started playing music that would mix with the sounds and conversations of our many languages.

I went to sleep in a white bed placed outdoors in front of the tent. While I lay down I looked at the dark sky and little by little I saw the magnificent milky way stretching above me. When I woke up in the morning I had sand all over me, from my nails to my hair. People woke up slowly and as in a state of hypnosis attracted by the dunes we would walk to the highest dune in the Erg Chigaga. When we were too mesmerized, we let ourselves just sink into the sand and surrender to its beauty.

The reason I travel is to encounter the harmony and connection I felt in this place. Then, all the hours of travel and effort to get there made sense.

No comments: