Day out in the desert

Desert has a Fascinating romance attached to it, add to it the nomadic bedouin on his camel with his caravan – and one wonders, isn’t it an interesting life.

Well I can vouch for the interesting part of it and can also at the same time confirm that the city life (almost since my childhood) has just not prepared me for such a nomadic and hard life.

We decided to have a day out in the desert, i.e. really move out of the city into the sand. The ideal location was chosen – an oasis – about 250 km away from Nouakchott. We took the needed things for our stay, and bought a sheep to be our lunch. And had one big canister of water and about 2 liters of water each. If you are wondering oasis and still carry water – did I say we were city spoilt. Lets just say we didn’t have the “guts” to try “that” water.

Early rise, quick breakfast and in the car. This time accompanied with Mohammad, Abdallahi’s brother-in-law. The drive takes us again on the same kinda highway which resulted in the flat tires – and no surprises we did have a flat tire. Only one. Driving at about 100 km skim out of asphalt and viola – you have a flat. The difference over here, it was day and only one flat. So, quick change to the spare and we were good to go. Stopped at a small town on the way and bought a (believe me or not) second-hand tire for about 10 EUR.

Still some travelling further, the highway passes along a rather small watering hole, and we saw some (many) camels taking their break. The leader of the caravan let us take a ride on his camel. After perching myself on the saddle (which itself was not easy), the movements that the camel takes to get up from its sitting position throws the rider either forward or backward – and for me the first camel ride, was definitely not easy. It was an achievement for me just to still be sticking on to the camel back. Well, the same goes for getting of the camel too.

Some distance before our destination we bought this small sheep, which had to be transported along with us in the car. Panic, perhaps, it excreted in the car, and we were trying to catch it with our hands so as not to spoil the car.

Finally close to the destination, the change in scenery was breathtaking – from the dry desert sands suddenly there are lush trees and grass which looks like a wonderful green carpet spread out. And to highlight the change are herds of animals that come to the watering hole, first a group and some how they know when they are done they move off, then another herd and so on… All kinds of domestic animals – sheep, cows, buffalo, donkeys, camels, horses were on parade one after other.

Found a nice spot not far from the oasis, spread out the blankets, slaughtered the sheep in the name of Allah, kindled a fire, shot a few pics., started grilling on fire a few of pieces while the rest were used for cooking a kinda porridge. A classical Mauritanian bread was prepared, check out the recipe here. After a hearty meal, just lazed around for a couple of hours.

By about 16:30 it was time to search for a sleeping spot. As we were driving away from the watering hole we passed a herd of camels which were being prepared for the night. If you are wondering what is preparing for the night – I will post soon with all the details along with all about milking the camel and about its milk.

Now, darkness falls pretty fast here, and we had not yet found our sleeping spot, luckily for us Mohammad knew approximately where we had to head to reach a nice place to sleep. Passing along some shrubs – which have small thorny things which cling on to clothes, fur, skin (some one with more botanical knowledge can point me to the name), we got a lot of those. These thorny things are not irritating – but down right painful. The technique to get those off is to wet the hand either water or spit and slowly rub along the pants to get them off. The collected thorns are not to be thrown around, but covered with sand – so they don’t get on you again.

Finally we reached the spot – we could see the city in the distance, other than that it is nothingness. So by 20:30 mats were spread to sleep and within the hour we had finished off all topics to talk and slept.

I didn’t immediately, the clear night sky was just too good to ignore. The still night sky was only disturbed by a shooting star which was a welcome sight for me. Some time later I dozed off too.
Desert has a lot of beetles and some time by 03:00 I was awake – don’t really remember because of the beetles or of the cold. But, I was up. Flicked the torch and there were a lot of these beetles (even inside the mosquito net used by Murat). These are just a nuisance and can be ignored. But the cold I couldn’t ignore. Finally got a blanket and slept.

Why was it cold in the first place? 

The sand dunes have highs and lows – the high places are cold because of the wind that blows across, while the low places are relatively warm. But there is one huge disadvantage of the low places – the wind takes out the fine sand from the high places and deposits on the low places. So we avoided the low places.

By the first string of light we could hear in the distance Muezzin’s call to prayer – and one by one we were up. Offered the Fajr prayer and made our way to the highway where we had some bread with Mauritanian tee. That was our “Day out in desert”.

The fascination still remains – and Inshallah (God willing) I wish to do it again for a bit longer. And, wish to make a small trip too with a caravan.

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