The Sahara Desert is dead sexy.
In a barren sort of way.
The locals, they call it ‘The Big Desert’. Simple, sure, but if it isn’t a perfect naming, I don’t know what is. It is The Big Desert.
Now normally, somewhere around this point in a post I might drop in some knowledge—you know— for the water cooler, but to be honest I don’t have any today. In the face of the Sahara, facts and figures don’t seem to matter. If you want them you might have to Google it yourself. Meantime, here’s what I got: It’s a desert. It’s enormous. It goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on…
It makes you feel tiny. Like we humans are just passing through.
Some people, they were born here. Right in the middle of it. Berber People. Nomads. Growing up with sand and stars and thirst and song and camels and really really bad teeth.
You and I, we could have been born here. Think about that! Arriving not amidst the beep and chatter of gauzy robed figures in whites, greens and blues, all washed and sterilized up to their armpits, but rather in a tent surrounded by heat and sand and grit and strong mint tea.
But no, that’s not how it happened. I was born in a white Chicago suburb, all vanilla and bibley. And you, you were born you know, somewhere not here too.
But you can visit. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that the Big Desert has officially been discovered…by you and I. That first time I climbed a dune and looked out over a long thin ribbon of glowing horizon, all sky and sand, I felt like renaming it, like Cristoforo Colombo did with ‘Indians’. Looking out onto all that bleached yellow, all those twisted browns, I racked my brain trying to come up with something snappier than The Big Desert, but after a long moment I realized I could not.
It’s The Big Desert. As the Italians would say, ‘Basta.’
Visit. Wrap a stretch of long cloth around the head and face and be one of the Berber people for a day. Or two, or eight.
Or, if spending a few days in a camp surrounded by the ululating sounds of Berbers around campfires ain’t enough, you could try a Sahara Yoga Retreat. People actually pay to do this. This is actually happening. Apparently no place offers a quieter surrounding than the Big Desert. Here’s what you do: walk five, six, seven hours deep into the desert, all the while baking, sweating, panting, and blistering. Then sometime around midday, just about the point when your body is about to melt down, you and your new friends stop, make camp, break out the yoga mats and get centered. Next day, rinse and repeat. For weeks. In the literature for some of these you can find the word ‘intense’ paired with the word ‘retreat’. I think we all need a little more intensity to our retreats, don’t you?
Not me. My experience was intense enough. If you’ve ever ridden a camel for more than fifteen minutes you’ll know what I mean. Couple that with questionable food and even dicier water supplies, good luck with keeping your bowels on the camel ride back.
The Big Desert.
People live here.
But some just visit.