Riding a Camel on the Sand Dunes of the Moroccan Sahara

April 2015

 The Sleeping Gypsy

The Sleeping Gypsy

I was at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) a few days ago and Henri Rousseau’s The Sleeping Gypsy filled me with a strange longing to experience a desert landscape. I imagine myself riding a camel through the shifting sand dunes of the Moroccan Sahara. The Sahara, meaning “The Great Desert,” in Arabic is the world’s largest hot desert and one of the harshest environments on the planet. I imagine the Sahara as a vast expanse of soft sand dunes, where dehydration and intense sunlight reflecting off the sand trick the eye into seeing things that don’t exist. The Sahara is much more. Most of the Sahara is characterized as rocky hamada, a type of desert landscape that has very little sand and is made up of primarily barren, hard, rocky plateaus.

Our first subscription box ever - the Marrakesh Box from try the World

Our first subscription box ever – the Marrakesh Box from Try the World

I see myself riding a camel on massive sand dunes of Erg Chicaga, with a guide to keep us from getting lost. Story has it that long long ago, a wealthy family refused hospitality to a poor woman and her son. God was so offended by this act that *He buried them under the mounds of sand today. In the modern world, these sand dunes are know as Erg Chebbi or Erg Chicaga.

Starting before dawn to beat the heat; admiring the colourful sunrise, we’ll march in silence. Slowly we’ll get accustomed to the awkward gait of the camel as it lurches forward, even learning to sit cross legged like Lawrence of Arabia.  When it gets too hot and the desert starts to shimmer in a thousand shades of burnished gold, we’ll set up our tents at an oasis and rest in the shade of a palm tree. They say if you know where to look, water is never more than 10 kilometers away. Could there be anything more ethereal than standing atop the picturesque dunes at sunset and watching as the harsh yellow glare magically transforms into soft glowing shades of orange, pink and purple? If the night is warm, we’ll sleep under the stars, or sing songs in the light of the radiant moon. On cold nights, we’ll warm ourselves by a crackling fire and listen to wondrous stories filled with lions and djinns!

Moroccan Goodies

Moroccan Goodies

The end of November, and January and February are the best times to visit Erg Chebbi/ Erg Chicaga. The weather is not as harsh as summer or peak winter and since it is off season, it is also the quietest time.

Was it worth it? Well, the subscription rate is definitely more than the aggregate cost of the goods, but it is curated and sweetly packed and overall not very expensive. For $30 -$40 every 2 months, I'll take it.

Was it worth it?
Well, the subscription rate is definitely more than the aggregate cost of the goods, but it is curated and sweetly packed and overall not very expensive. For $30 -$40 every 2 months, I’ll take it.

*He – I believe God is gender free. I refer to him as masculine purely for convenience and convention

P.S – The date is not a typo. This is from April 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

A Surprise Holiday to Quebec, Canada

They say, marry the one who sees your true potential and pushes you to achieve it.

I say, marry the one who surprises you – with holidays.

Anyone who knows me knows that it’s super hard to surprise me. I am the most curiousest cat ever. If I get the slightest wind of something, I will dig and dig until I know. The husband almost never comes home with flowers or chocolates or a bottle of wine, so when he springs a surprise, it’s really a surprise. Just when I am all set to hiss and spit at him for not having a single romantic bone in his body, he whisks me off on a long weekend trip to the Quebec Province of Canada.  Montreal and Quebec City.  It could very well be because he wants to ski and our slopes are not ready yet, but I’ll give him the benefit of doubt. He makes it so hard to stay mad at him.

I couldn’t believe this was happening even as I got ready to step out of the house. At 6:30 am I got out of the shower and confirmed,” Are we really going or should I wear my  night clothes get back into bed?” Long story short, we are on our way to Montreal.

after rolling in the chips at the casino

Quebec is a francophone province of Canada, with distinctive traditions, mannerisms and laws. It gets its name from a spot on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, that the Aboriginals called Kébec  The look and feel of this place is so different from the rest of North America and so similar to Europe that Hollywood regularly uses it as a pretend France. For almost 12,000 years this land was inhabited only by Native Americans, now known as the First Nations in Canada and the Inuit. Jacques Cartier arrived in 1534 and claimed the land in the name of the Francis I, King of France. The French lost the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759 and four years later, the King of France ceded to the British crown “Canada and all its dependencies.” Although Quebec has been a part of Anglophone Canada since Canada became Canada, it has had  French as its sole official language since 1969. Quebec sovereignty has been hotly debated over the years.   Parti Québécois governments has held referendums  in 1980 and 1995; both times majority voted no. Quebec has a kind of independence-lite, its own laws and  even controls its own immigration. In 2006, the House of Commons of Canada passed a symbolic motion recognizing the “Québécois” as a nation within a united Canada. I am not sure what that means, but make what you will of it.

trying to make sense of the menu at Les 3 Brasseurs

trying to make sense of the menu at Les 3 Brasseurs

We reached Montreal at around 5:30 in the evening. It was dark and freezing, but nothing could beat the warm fuzzy feeling inside me. We had learnt our lessons from our Toronto trip. The first thing we did once we checked in was change currency. We wanted to do it at the border, but that exchange was closed when we got there. We got a pretty good rate at a money changer on Rue St. Catherine. There are plenty of shops that facilitate currency exchange on this street. We were staying at Hotel Espresso which is walking distance from Rue St. Catherine. The hotel was clean and comfortable and the staff were courteous. They have free wifi, which helped us plan our days. Honestly, that’s all we needed. Maybe free breakfast would have been good. That and free parking.

We grabbed dinner at Les 3 Brasseurs (The 3 Brewers), a microbrewery on Rue St. Catherine. Decent food, decent beer, but the poutine simply does not match up to what we ate in Toronto.

growing icicles

Growing Icicles

It’s -9 degrees Celsius and we can feel icicles forming in our hearts. We decide the Casino would be a great place to stay warm. This is not Vegas, but it is to be seen.  Six floors; live music; restaurants; bars.  There are no skimpily clad waitresses bringing you drinks, but you can help yourself to free soft drinks, coffee and juices on every floor. Also, I think this is a non-smoking casino. This place is a slot machine mecca. They have  two entire floors dedicated to slot machines and more slot machines on every floor. This is where slot machine addicts go when they die. Since the blackjack tables were too expensive, I decided to play roulette. I love roulette. I can play roulette all night. I found a low minimum bet table. In what seemed like a very short while later, I had made 10 times what I put in. For the first time ever, the husband and I decided to cash out while we were still winning, and walk away.

Watch the sunset from the top of the Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

*Photo Courtesy Flickr

As romantic as it sounds romantic, I don’t think it’s such a great idea. Firstly, you won’t get the tower in your pictures, and also there will be long lines and extra high prices to get up there at that time. The Esplanade du Trocadéro might be a better spot. It just might also be a better idea to go up late night and see the city twinkling below. We did this with Subi and Reva in NYC. We skipped the mandatory trip up the Empire State building in favour of a view from the Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center).

NYC by night, from the Top of the Rock

NYC by night, from the Top of the Rock

It was completely worth it, because

  1. We could go at a later hour when the lines are much shorter. We went after dark and all of NYC lay shimmering beneath us. This is a much prettier view.
  2. We could see the iconic Empire State building. Something you can’t do when you are standing on top of it.

*Original photo can be seen here. If this picture belongs to you,please let me know if you have any objections to my using it. If not, thank you for letting me use it.