sahara

“Immediately when you arrive in the Sahara, for the first or the tenth time, you notice the stillness… then there is the sky, compared to which all other skies seem like faint-hearted efforts.”
-Paul Bowles

It is the largest desert in the world, draped across the width of a continent and dividing Africa into two.

Whether you choose a great (and very long) road-trip, are whisked in aboard a private helicopter, seek out ancient kasbahs on a 4×4 adventure, zip across pistes on an ATV, or choose to redefine “slow travel” on the back of a camel, our Sahara offers true magic.

It is a land of dramatic landscapes, of shifting wind-sculpted dunes, sudden sandstorms, long morning and evening shadows, and intense sun. The vast, brilliant nighttime sky is so clear that you are tempted to reach up and touch the stars with your own hands.

Its very name – the word “Sahara” in Arabic means desert – conjures up images of veiled Arab horsemen, caravans of camels hundreds-long laden with exotic wares, and nomadic warriors sheltered by flowing robes from harsh desert storms.

We like to think of travel through the Sahara as a great road trip along caravan routes older than the Silk Route to China and all the roads the once led to Rome. The traders in the great caravans that once plied these routes risked everything, but the piles of gold, salt, and other valuable rarities could bring about a fortune that could last a lifetime!

You cross through mountain passes with snow (yes, you might see snow and sand in the same day) along lush green river valleys, which extend like fingers into the desert, dotted periodically with fortified mud villages and kasbahs that once belonged to feudal lords. You venture past oases and perhaps the occasional mirage, all in the midst of a tranquil silence.

Semi-nomadic and village-dwelling Berber tribes have lived along these river valleys for countless generations. Their lives revolve around the procurement of water and agricultural production of olives, dates, and corn, on tiny strips of irrigated land. Their evocative dwellings, kasbahs and ksours, are decorated with bas-relief carvings and are in varying states of poetic disintegration.

Perhaps most beautiful is the Draa Valley, from Ouarzazate to Zagora. Other contenders are the dramatic Todra and Dades Gorges, whose rivers wind relentlessly through steep and barren cliffs and mountains.

The Berbers who inhabit the fortified villages of these valleys and gorges still live in many ways as their ancestors did. The women, clothed in brilliant colors, paint their hands and feet in delicate patterns of henna. Older women display tattoos on their foreheads and chins to identify their tribe. Even as they work in the fields, many wear jewelry handed down from mother to daughter for centuries.

It takes time to reach the Sahara. Enough time so that most tourists don’t follow you. The further into the desert you venture, more the Sahara belongs to you.

Sooner or later, even the belts of green along the trading routes die out into the harsh, arid sands of the Sahara. Human civilization falls away and you find yourself alone in the ravishing beauty of the Sahara – just sand, wind, sky, and stars.