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The sand dune was glistening in all its orange-hued glory as the desert sun penetrated it from above. I was at the base of what felt like an insurmountable hill as I contemplated the climb ahead of me. Having spent the last hour conquering the “bunny slopes” of the Sahara Desert, I was ready to graduate to the tallest dune in sight.
With the sandboard resting on my shoulders, I began my ascent — every step a challenge as my feet sank into the sand beneath. Upon reaching the peak of the dune, I opened my eyes, took a deep breath and stared into the seemingly endless desert ahead before propelling my body forward. Within seconds, I was surfing the Sahara.
As someone with little snowboarding experience, I feared that sandboarding would be a futile pursuit. Omar, our local Berber host, reassured me that there was nothing to worry about; indeed, as I got the hang of the sport, my falls (or wipeouts, rather) became less frequent. Plus, the Sahara is known for its seriously soft sand, which provides a great cushion for whichever body part makes contact with the ground below.
Though an exhilarating experience, sandboarding is not a full-day activity. Climbing a mountain is hard enough, but climbing a mountain that your feet can sink into requires extra recuperation.
Fortunately for me, I was staying at Desert Luxury Camp, an oasis near the village of Merzouga, Morocco. While we were located hours away from any major city (Marrakech is 350 miles west), creature comforts were always within easy reach.
With sand embedded everywhere from my hair to my toes, I made my way to the camp’s tented pool after a quick stop at my decked-out private tent. Once I cooled down, I headed to one of the camp’s relaxation areas; each is fashionably outfitted with handmade furniture such as ornate Moroccan rugs and patterned pillows and poufs.
The latter part of the afternoon was spent driving an all-terrain vehicle on a guided tour. Whereas sandboarding brought hard-earned satisfaction, ATV driving provided instant gratification — though not without its own set of challenges.
I won’t soon forget the feeling of my heart pounding in my chest as I approached the lip of a sharp dune, knowing that I would be driving off the other side in a few moments. At certain points, I felt as though I was completely vertical and vulnerable to flipping over face first.
Luckily, our guides — this time contracted from outside the hotel — knew what they were doing. Without the limitations that come with walking on my own two feet, I was able to confidently traverse some very steep dunes and enjoy another perspective of the Sahara landscape.
Not long after returning to the campsite for a much-needed rest, music penetrated the walls of my tent. Lured outside, I couldn’t help but be distracted by the beauty of the grounds — now illuminated by decorative lanterns and flickering candlelight that mirrored the starry night sky. I eventually made my way to the common area surrounding the fire pit, where the camp’s staff members were playing guitar and serenading guests with impressive harmonies.
Local Berber men, dressed in matching white robes, joined the festivities to perform Gnawa music, spiritual religious songs and rhythms accompanied by iron castanets. The mellow jam session morphed into an all-out dance party — an appropriate celebration of life in the Sahara.
The DetailsDesert Luxury Camp www.desertluxurycamp.com