Isaiah DuPree, an International Relations Major and Arabic Minor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, studied with AMIDEAST in Morocco during the 2013-2014 academic year. In this essay, he reflects on his journey through the Sahara.
For the first ten minutes I had to remind my mind that what my eyes were witnessing was real. The rust colored sand dunes that rolled into the horizon, the sky so blue the oceans would be jealous, the echoing white clouds that plumed into the sky, the landscape alone had such a potent beauty it probably left my pupils dilated for the next week.
We trekked through the Sahara on camel back for about two hours, the scenery absolutely breathtaking…
Our Berber guides added to the entertainment with the occasional joke in all of the 7 languages that they knew collectively. Their traditional garments (taglemusts) rippling in the gentle breeze. Strange as it sounds, I held my head high on that camel, proud that the animal that had marched across these seas of sands for over 5000 years was carrying me too. I watched the shadows of our caravan dance on the dunes, an image that has gracefully carved itself into my mind.
As nightfall came, we rounded up in the center of our community tents and dined on the finest tagine I’ve had in Morocco. The succulent pieces of chicken adorned my taste buds with a smoky gentle flavor, leaving me salivating to this day. After dinner, the party began. Fruit was served for a quick dessert, and our Berber guides broke out the traditional drums and we danced the Sahara under our feet and the galaxy above our heads. I looked up wondering how all the things I had experienced had amounted to this, all under the same sky.
The night ended with full bellies, sand between our toes, and the feeling of our bodies still rocking to the rhythm of the camel’s hips. We woke up the next day about half an hour before the sun rose, which at first I was irritated about, but how could you miss the sunrise in the Sahara? Once we all got our things together, we began to climb up the sand dunes to get the best view.
What I saw was nothing short of poetry: a massive Moroccan sun slowly rolling up the horizon, extending its golden fury to the farthest corners of our eyes, bathing the desert in blankets of light. As I felt the warmth cascade on my face I realized that these are the moments that I would carry forever. I began to walk back down from my perch, and from between the sand dunes I watched one of our Berber guides fade into a silhouette behind the rising sun.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a single moment that changed me until I walked through the Sahara. Witnessing the potential the beauty the Earth can reveal to us in a single moment is astounding. I realize that I have experienced something most people can’t even recreate in dreams. And in that realization, living in Morocco has given me the feeling of what it’s like to dream while awake.
All photos by Isaiah DuPree.