Apr 20 11

Cartwheels in the Sahara

by Emily Benjamin

Today we took a day trip from our hotel out into the desert – the Sahara Desert, no less. We were joined by an American woman, her Moroccan husband and her son, a typical 15 year old American boy, except for the fact they all live in Cairo so this boy knows more about the middle east than most Americans will in their entire lives. At 11am, our driver arrived to collect us in a sandy Toyota Landcruiser- he was introduced as Desert Fox.

For the next 8 hours we drove through the Sahara Desert. That in itself doesn’t sound very interesting, does it. But that’s all it was – driving, sometimes at very high speeds, over sand that reached for miles and miles in front of us and behind us. It didn’t take long to get lost, to forget which direction we’d just come from – there were no trees or buildings or shadows to act as landmarks, or to guide us in the right direction.

You can picture the photos – all blue skies and white sand. Sand dunes mostly all look the same. Some big, some small, and in the middle of the day, when there are no shadows, there isn’t much contrast for the camera to pick up. Your eyes can pick up a bit, but that won’t translate here. But maybe you can imagine being shrunk, like in the terribly lame cult-classic Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, and being dropped into a 4 litre tub of Paul’s Extra Creamy Vanilla Ice Cream. A brand new tub, with the perfect ripples of frozen cream on top, waiting to be scooped up. Even the blue tub that it used to come in fits perfectly as the colour of the sky. That’s what I felt like today – a tiny human speck on a tub of creamy, silky ice cream.

I know it sounds like a ridiculous analogy. Maybe I’ve got heat stroke or, given I was in the desert, I was just hallucinating and seeing ice cream mirages. But saying there was blue skies and white sand just doesn’t cut it. It was more like this; endless tidal waves of buttermilk coloured sand, in two shades – a matte version and a silk version. The matte sand was the base coat, the sand that had settled hard, into ridges and ripples from the wind. The silk sand was softer, creamier and lighter, falling over the sand dunes like a piece of silk thrown over a sewing table. The two shades of sand together gave just enough contrast to the dunes for the eye to see – without it this very slight visual aid, we would no doubt have ploughed over the edge of one of the massive waves head first into a valley ten metres below.

We did that anyway, though. Desert Fox got more adventurous as the afternoon went on, and the final dip of the roller-coaster was massive. The car surfed down the maybe 20 metre high wave of sand, while Desert Fox laughed and the five of us squealing in delight and fear. Mostly delight, but still – an edge of uncertainty that the old Landcruiser wasn’t going to make it. But we were never in any danger – if there is one thing Toyota commercials have taught me, then it’s that these cards are made for these off road adventures. And that thought seems fitting, seeing as it felt like the whole day could have been the making of a Toyota Landcruiser commercial.

In the afternoon we visited hot and cold oases, and by sunset we were sipping Siwan tea next to a fire atop a sand dune. The sun set quickly, and offered only a quick rainbow of colours in the clear sky, with no clouds to give it context. The temperature began to drop and by 7pm, we were whisked back into the car and sped back to the town for a dinner at the hotel.

I was surprisingly tired from the days adventures, which seems odd because I physically did very little. And it wasn’t overly hot, either. But I suppose I did taboggan down a sand dune, walk up and down a few dunes, and did a lot of star jumps for photos as well – all very exhausting stuff! Oh, and I did a few cartwheels too, so I can tick that off the bucket list. I have done a cartwheel in the Sahara Desert – check!

– Em :)

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One Response

  1. Cristina says:

    Sounds like you had so much fun!
    That must be you in the first photo doing a cartwheel ;) – and I must say I am very impressed, both with the choreography and its execution ;)

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