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Road to Erg Chebbi
By Evelyn - 28 May, 1999

Page 4 of 4

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Berber Hosts

We had decided to stay an extra day at the urging of our hosts. One evening is certainly not enough, and I would say to do it right, the experience should last at least a week. Nowhere have we even encountered hosts as engaged with their guests as the Housseini brothers at Erg Chebbi. They don't simply exchange niceties, see to it you have warm blankets, and disappear behind private doors. You are brought into their home and made a part of their life in the desert surroundings. They take walks with you, camp out on the dunes with you, and not because it's their job, but because they want to. At the edge of the desert where they lived all their lives, far from civilization as most of us know it, they still know what a good thing they have. It is a joyful experience to be with people who like their life and want to share it with you; something more rare than it ought to be. And as long as they enjoy your company as guests, you will have difficulty leaving.

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Our second day passed slowly, as I guess any day would if you're up at the crack of dawn. Lots of lounging about, drinking tea and swatting relentlessly at flies. Ibrahim and a French guest left in the afternoon and it felt like the night approaching would be very different from the last. Gregg, Hassan, and I took a walk into the dunes at sunset. We told Hassan about our travels and explained, with partial success, our website. He was ecstatic to know that we were putting work to one side and play to another in search of adventure. He was also tickled by our name—les fous nomads—in French. Hours flew by without my noticing as our conversation focused a lot on religion, and therefore required more concentration to translate on my part. Between Hassan murming text from the Koran then translating into French, and my translating again into English, we managed to share some of our differing perspectives, though conversation was delicate at times. Mostly the evening was very thought provoking and good-spirited. We wrapped things up agreeing that at the most fundamental level all religions are about the same thing, and that there must be some superior force that created the dunes we sat upon, the air we breathed, and the moon and stars above our heads.

The Toureg Nomad

Hassan tempted to prolong our visit a little longer by inviting us to an upcoming Berber wedding—a four-day event—in the nearby village of Merzouga. We had already missed our 'community taxi' that comes by Labaraka at 6am, and through Hassan's doing, managed to mooch a ride off another American couple that had arrived the day before in their rental car. I'm not sure how we finally managed to slip away, but when time came, we bid a fond farewell to Hassan and the other Labaraka folks. Only the Swiss, Peter, stayed behind.

As long as the days seem at Erg Chebbi, and as little as one might find to do, the whole experience makes you very aware of your own existence, and you realize how little you need to be content. Of course this is in context of passing through, and not in fact living there, but during the two days I barely slept, ate minimally, and still felt completely energized. The days of hectic work schedules and a busy social life felt wonderfully far away.

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Riding out of Erg Chebbi in the back of the Americans' rental car, I found myself staring out the window pensively. It would be awhile, maybe never, before we would be back. Our desert experience was short but unfortunately we had to rush back to Fès for the music festival starting the next day. We passed the location used in a film about Antoine de Saint-Exupèry, which we stopped to visit with Ibrahim the day before. All that is left is a small wingless airplane marked 'Aeropostale'. In the film, this is where Saint-Exupèry encounters a Toureg nomad and his camel in the middle of the desert. He asks the Toureg how long he has been travelling, to which the Toureg replies "3 months". Proudly, Saint-Exupèry says he has only been traveling 3 hours in his plane. The Toureg, unimpressed, asks "And what will you do with the all the extra time you have?"*

*This is the basic gist of the story. Saint-Exupèry afficionados, please feel free to elaborate.



 



 

 
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Road to Erg Chebbi
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