I didn't expect to go to the Sahara Desert the week before Christmas. The original plan was to go to Paris the week before Christmas. Snow, cold, Christmas markets, pork. You know the whole "Christmas" feeling. But of course then Egypt didn't work out and Paris got plugged in early. So where do we go the week before Christmas? On Thanksgiving we got invited to go along with friends (who also have 4 children all corresponding to my kids ages) on their desert trip. PERFECT! So I was telling Craig that this was really cool, but didn't seem "Christmasy" to go to the desert right before Christmas. That was until he reminded me that this is how the original Christmas was. Oh yeah. Right. So this is like vintage, retro "back to basics" Christmas? Cool.
Let me warn you first that I'm sketchy on the details of this trip. We were using some pretty hard psychedelic drugs. I mean the GOOD stuff. Benadryl, NyQuil and Dramamine. Not only were we in a drug induced fog, but the trip was jam packed and I can't possibly cover it all. So I'm not even gonna try.
What should one pack when going to the desert in December? Shorts, flip flops, winter coats, sneakers. In other words everything. I'm pretty sure the wise men didn't have any luggage. But then again they didn't travel with 8 kids or I'm pretty sure they would have packed all that freakin' stuff and a dvd player too. Maybe that's what made them so wise....they left the kids at home.
So day one we take the train to Marrakesh where our journey officially begins. We walk through the medina and have a beautiful and delicious dinner over looking the square with the snake charmers, monkeys, teeth pullers, pick pockets. It's great everyone is so excited. Dinner starts off with olives and Moroccan bread. Then some couscous, maybe a tagine (like a Moroccan stew of beef or chicken with veggies) and ends with oranges. So day one it was fun, but this is EVERY meal lunch and dinner on the trip. Now I love Moroccan food. Really I do. But there are only so many olives one can eat. (Unless you're Julianna.) And it's totally weird when you're so accustomed to this formula that you don't feel like you're done with dinner until they bring the oranges. And you are strangely ravenous for oranges.
It takes a LONG, twisty, turny nauseous time in the car to get to the desert. Wisemen didn't need Dramamine because camels are slow tedious creatures. But thankfully with the advent of the car some wiseman invented it. Without it there would have been puke involved. Actually, there was puke involved, but it was in the middle of dinner, not in the car. Any parent knows puke doesn't ruin dinner, but the smell of puked baked into the seat of the car when you're driving through the mountains for hours upon hours with the insidious noxious fumes would ruin the entire trip. We'll leave that for other rancid odors.
After nights spent in hotels and the kids having sleepovers every night we've finally made it to the desert and the Berber tents where we will be spending two nights. It will be three days with no showers (and I forgot to pack my deodorant in addition...talk about stench) and sand 24/7. You know how you get home from the beach and you can't wait to shower it all off? Well imagine if you have a nice base of sticky sunscreen and have gone dune diving and then had a wind storm pelt sand at you from all directions. Then of course your bed has not only the sand that you've brought in with you, but the sand that has leaked through the holes in your tent. Who needs a hammam when you can get scrubbed and buffed by the elements for free?
Then there's the camels. They are adorable in some weird gawkish Lyle Lovett kinda way. And they belt out their camel songs with no inhibitions. But three things you may not know. First they have slobbery frothy mouths. I don't know why, but they look a bit rabid. Not in a crazed way, more in a sleepy Dramamine induced camel coma kinda way. Second there is a reason why they were banished to the desert and it's because of their putrid camel farts! And last that stupid hump is conducive to a condition known as camel crotch. You could try to treat it with hydrocortisone cream, but that's just going to make the sand stick to the infected area and increase the frictiony sandpaper effect next time you cruise on your camel. Better to just ride it out...
Just when you get to have a sense of peace and accept your camel crotch as being part of your vintage Christmas experience, the commercialism comes to greet you on the dunes. In enter the dune kids. They appear from no where while you are minding your own business frolicking in the barren dunes. Or what you thought were barren dunes. They come with a bag filled with camels that they have made out of string to sell to you. Necessity breeds invention. Now the kids are about ages 4 and 2 from what I can ascertain roaming the desert by themselves. They are extremely persistent. They don't say anything. The older brother merely takes the camels out one by one and places them in a line like a caravan and sit staring at you. There is no more effective sales tactic than being stared at by a dirty, sandy 4 year old salesman who is squinting a hole through your soul. Thank god we have child labor laws in the US, otherwise do you know how many Tupperware containers we would own?
Back to home base for lunch. But today is special. It's Sky's 12th birthday. There ain't no cake in the desert and even if there was the sand would stick to the icing. So what is there to stick a candle into? Olives? Tagine? Oranges? Thank god for Moroccan bread. I wonder what his wish was. I'm positive it had nothing to do with couscous. More likely pizza and a shower. Really, you know you're kids are funky when they are practically begging to shower. I'm positive he's never going to forget where he was when he turned 12. The question is what in the world do we have to do to top this when he turns 13? Is there a trip that can make him beg to do his homework?
Our trip ends in Fes. Having been to Fes before we know this great cafe that has some Americanized/Moroccan food. So after a day of shopping in the medina we head there for lunch. The grand finale of the trip. No tagine, no couscous and no olives. Today we will have milk shakes, fries and camel burgers. Yes, camel burgers. I know it seems so cruel. But I gotta tell ya....they taste a hell of a lot better than they smell! Now where are the oranges?