After a restful night at the family-owned hotel, we enjoyed a nice breakfast on the terrace before hitting the road for another five or so hours.
Tried as we had to eat and drink only clean, safe food, we both started to feel the physical discomfort you can't help but expect when visiting a developing country. The seemingly never-ending winding mountain roads didn't help, and we eventually had to pull over to take a break. Since Sarah has the unique capability of getting carsick driving herself on a straight road, this was a real challenge. Brahim, bless his heart, was a good sport about it, but warned us not to eat in "The Square" (Jemaa el-Fnaa) again because that food is "poison." His words.
Luckily for us, we were in a tiny town but only about 50 yards from Brahim's friend's home when we so urgently needed this break. We rolled up unexpectedly and were welcomed with open arms, and we spent a good hour and a half on his lovely terrace overlooking a beautiful valley. There was truly a silver lining to feeling so rotten, because we had a wonderful time relaxing and napping on this terrace with a genuinely warm, kind local family. Upon our arrival, Mohammed immediately served us mint tea, fresh dates, and made a small cachet of freshly ground cumin to smell and help alleviate the nausea.
The hardest part of leaving was saying goodbye to Mohammed's precious daughters, Fatima and Zaynab, who took a real shine to Sarah, and she to them. We wanted to adopt them right then and there, and their dad half-jokingly said that we could take them to the United States because America is a good place. It's nice to know that our struggling and imperfect country is still regarded by so many as the shining city upon the hill. We'd give anything to provide these beautiful children with the same opportunities we've enjoyed, but we know they are safe and loved, and while their lives will be very different from ours, they are happy.
Back to the long drive with a scenic photo op stop.
And at around 5pm, we finally made it to the starting point of the camel trek in the Sahara! These companies really have it figured out where they deposit their charges at a nice hotel at the edge of the dunes where we can borrow a room and swim, shower, relax, whatever until the camel trek begins at 6:30pm. People from all different tour companies were there, so we ended up trekking with about ten other tourists.
The camels, in position...
Sarah and Hirsh, in position...
And off we went!
What we did not see coming was a rainstorm in the desert. About five minutes into the ride, we felt the first few drops and the sky turned ominous. Then it turned into a very wet and windy sandstorm. While we were not as enthused, our guides were thrilled to see rain.
The situation became more and more dire (just look at the woman behind Sarah)...
And we had to stop the ride early because it got to be too much. We were picked up in jeeps (by a crazy driver who made the ride insanely fun by catching air flying over the dunes) and driven to our very nicely appointed campsite where we were served more mint tea, tagines, and then had a drumming party!
Sarah was awarded the prize for best performance because she's really good at following directions, and the prize was a camel of her choice to take home! She obviously chose the camel she had been riding because their hair color matched.