Black Rose Of The Desert

by Lena

21.Morocco - 08

Self-Portrait

Black Rose of the desert, was a name given to me by a fellow traveler – David Cifuentes – photographer and explorer from Spain.

Last time I ventured into the desert was in March 2012, for my 28th Birthday.

This time, the group was bigger…

19.Elena Levon Photography Morocco - 19

” Caravan ” 17th of September. 2012

I’m really thankful that I came on this trip again…

I met a few incredible individuals ; David, Maria, Inma from Spain & Mouna from Marrakech.

However, we did have a few girls and guys who were so incredibly irritating and overwhelmingly high maintenance… for instance;

I heard 2, Asian chicks asking our driver who only knows “Hello” in English ;

” Oh, I’m sorry, are there going to be showers and bathroom in our hotel room in the desert? “

Huh?! You are going into the desert!! What Hotel? What Bathroom? What Showers?!!

Shara " Hotel "  : )

Sahara ” Hotel ” : )

All I wanted to say to those two divas was;

Please, just put on one of your 15 sunscreens, enjoy the ride and try not to get bitten by a scorpion! Really don’t want to disappoint you, but there are no pharmacies in the desert!

One lad from London was really sick the first night while we stayed in the mountains.. I mean, it’s normal when you travel… your body can get sick…

Next day he got stuffed on burgers, chips and chocolate dessert at a local eatery. A meal for those tourists, who want to have their ” home food ” on the road with them at all times!…

 I asked him if he needs to go to a local pharmacy before we entered the desert and get some pills, just in case…

he said;

“No! I feel great! you’re the one who needs to get some medicine for your cold, so you go!”

Ok, I said…

He was throwing up the whole night in Sahara and his girlfriend who dared to walk around a Muslim country in shorts, that barely cover her not so athletic ass,

begged for medicine!

( Can you imagine their blog post about their “once in a lifetime adventure” in the Highest Dunes of Sahara? .. )

Our driver hated me… he didn’t get his commission from me…  because I know prices in Morocco so well, that when he stopped at the “restaurants for tourists”

with astronomical prices, I got out of the car, walked 10 meters and had an amazing lunch 4 times cheaper…

Got in a fight with him a few times, cause he didn’t want to stop so I could get some food and water at the local shop.

You see, the whole group were going into the desert only for a few hours.. basically they were going to sleep there and then at 5 am go back to the city.

They were only going to have dinner there… which was going to be prepared for them, so they didn’t need to buy extra food.

I was staying in the dunes alone for the next whole day and then another night… so I needed food and water.

06.Elena Levon Photography Morocco - 06

Me and girl from Marrakech, Mouna, bonded right away..

as soon as she heard me arguing with our driver … she asked me ” Are you Aries ? “

Of course I am! and so is she!

She said that not only does he hate the fact that he can’t seem to swindle me into getting him his commission, but also I had a little disadvantage – I am a Woman… so he didn’t want to take any kind of orders from a woman..

Guess my requests were being taken as an order..

Well tough luck buddy…

yes, I am a Woman, but here’s your disadvantage … it is me who’s paying you, not other way around!

Mouna and group from Spain couldn’t stop laughing…

Oh, and by the way,

Mouna told us a joke, that you would never hear from a Muslim woman .. unless she’s your friend … and unless she’s Mouna : )

We were crying laughing…

Won’t post it, but here are the main 3 words of the joke…

Virgin, Carrots, Dream.

On our way to Sahara we stopped at the Unesco World Heritage Site – Ait Ben Haddou, where I met “the man in blue” on my last visit.

As it turned out he got married to a girl from Sweden and was there now for the holidays.

Ait Ben Haddou

Ait Ben Haddou

A very nice guy, Mohamed, showed me around and invited me to stay in one of the Kasbahs -

Kasbah-tebi

Next time I’m here, I will! One of my favorite films – The Sheltering Sky was filmed here.

inside the  Kasbah

inside the Kasbah

Unfortunately, by the time we got to Sahara it was only seconds before the sunset.

Some girls in our group were too busy spending hours in carpet shops …

Did you really travel 12 hours from Marrakech in order to buy a carpet that you can’t afford?!

A little secret – The driver will do everything in his power to keep you busy in restaurants, souvenir and carpet shops in order to make you spend your money. That way the company and him will get their commission.

He will NEVER rush you out the shop or restaurant, that’s your job if you want to get to Sahara before Sunset. If all of you say ” let’s hit the road ” , he has no choice, but continue the journey.

This time, everyone got to see the sunset from the van…

I felt sorry for all of them, especially for David, he really wanted pictures of the Sahara Sunset.

If you book 3 days 2 nights like the whole group did, then you spend first night in the Mountains and 1 night in the desert.

I booked 4 days and 3 nights all together, with 1 day and 2 nights in the desert.

So when the whole group was rushed onto their camels before sunrise, I walked slowly to the closest dune with my breakfast and enjoyed the sunrise …

09.Elena Levon Photography Morocco - 09

18.Elena Levon Photography Morocco - 18

What companies don’t tell you is that you will only spend a few hours in the desert if you book 3 day 2 night option into Erg Chebbi dunes – First night is ALWAYS in the mountains in the hotel, then you get to the actual dunes by Sunset ( if you lucky ) Have your dinner in the desert, climb 1 dune in the dark and then go to sleep. You will be out of the desert before sunrise!

Lesson – Either book 4 days and 3 nights with 2 of them in the Erg Chebbi desert or make seeing Sunset in Sahara a number 1 priority.

When all of us got out of the van I recognized everyone from the last trip. Even Mustafa was there and he would also be our guide!

All of them couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw me.

Oh, and I would also be riding my favorite camel again …

Meet The Coolest Camel Of Sahara …

Jimi Hendrix …

03.Elena Levon Photography Morocco - 03

Me and the guys had a little misunderstanding when I said that I was going to spend an extra day & night in the dunes.

They said ” No, you come tomorrow morning with the rest of the group and spend a day outside of the dunes in this small hotel “

I said ” No way!! “

” I’m staying solo in the dunes the whole day and then another night. Call your boss, she knows about our deal! “

One of the guys asked me;

” Are you crazy? You want to stay alone in the dunes with Jimi !? “

” I love Jimi ! ” – was my answer.

Morocco - 11

So he called the boss. Then said to me ;

” You are crazy! But ok, Fatimah, just please promise me you won’t cross the Algerian border! “

Standing on one of the most highest Erg Chebbi dunes, looking at the Algeria in the background.

Standing on top of the most highest Erg Chebbi dune, looking at the Algeria in the background.

My group from Spain, Mouna and her friend from Marrakech all had a blast! We danced and laughed, climbed dunes and told jokes.

Mouna ( in red ) and Maria in black tank top

Mouna ( in red ) and Maria ( in green top ) laughing on top of their camels

Meanwhile, the rest of the group were complaining about everything including the fact that we were too loud!

Bite me!

Did you really come all this way so you can be in your tent by 9 and bitch about how bad decor of your tent is, bugs and noise?

As me, Mouna and her friend were dancing to the beats of drums, played by David & Mustafa, Maria and Inma showed off their Flamenco moves

those girls have some skills!

01.Elena Levon Photography Morocco - 01

After a few hours we were exhausted…

Our whole gang including Mustafa, took our mattresses and blankets out of our tents and crashed on the sand.

I found out that Mouna is actually Dr. Mouna – she’s a dentist with her own practice in Marrakech. I asked her to do a filling for me when I’m back in Marrakech from Sahara.

We were lying in the middle of the desert in absolute awe, with breathtaking sky full of shimmering diamonds and milky way.

We were making wishes on every shooting star we saw…

And once again, I was able to hear the most magical sound in the world, that I so longed for ~ The Silence of Sahara…

Yin / Yang of Sahara

Yin / Yang of Sahara

Close to 5am Mustafa woke us all up, it was time for the group to leave back to Marrakech.

Everyone said goodbye and the caravan left…

I watched sunrise on top of the dune, then went inside my tent and got some bread for Jimi … he loves bread!

07.Elena Levon Photography Morocco - 07

Then I was told by one of the guys who came to clean all the tents, that he will take me to the other side of the dunes and introduce me to a real Nomad Family that live in the dunes.

I’m talking about the real deal here, with authentic caftan, tents and tribal tattoos…

Of course I accepted the invitation!

me with the nomad family

me with the nomad family

We basically talked with our hands and laughing a lot while trying to explain something to one another.

The husband was nice enough to set up a little breakfast for me with some bread, cheese and mint tea. I took 1 of the huge breads that I bought at the local bakery the day before and gave it to the kids.

Also helped mom with baskets of water that she brought from the closest village.

Me and kids run around, chasing each other. They seemed to love the fact that some crazy woman is playing with them.

Nomad kids also have puppies, but instead of dog puppies they have baby goats tied to a tent.

I asked the husband about the highest dune in Erg Chebbi and how to get there…

You see, it was September and it’s known for the unbearable heat, that starts at around noon. Had to make sure to climb the dune before the sand got unbearably hot.

He showed me the way and said that he wants to join me to make sure I’m safe. Thanked him, but insisted on a solo climb.

11.Elena Levon Photography Morocco - 11

As I was making my way to the dune the nomad tent was further and further away… almost disappearing behind another dune.

It always seems like you are so close to the top, until you reach what you think is the top, to see yet another dune ahead of you…

Slowly but surely I was almost there…

So I decided to take a little break. The feeling of being in the middle of the dunes alone is indescribable!

05.Elena Levon Photography Morocco - 05

You feel as if you are limitless… a beautiful combination of peace and power.

My whole being surrendered to a moment where time didn’t exist.

It’s a very quiet and powerful realization, that you are not as important as you thought you were,

you are just another grain of sand … and it’s ok,

because you are a part of this beauty we call Universe.

14.Elena Levon Photography Morocco - 14

I had shivers down my spine knowing, that it’s just me, wind and the sand …

And at that very moment my state of lightness gets interrupted – I see something white running down one of the dunes…

I thought ” Ok, I must have the desert fever, where you begin to see things “

As it turns out I wasn’t imagining things … it was the Fennec Fox and the dunes are their home …

351

from google images

After about 15 minute break I continued my climb. As I was putting my camera away, a blue silhouette in the distance was making his way to the same dune…

" The Blue Man of Sahara "

” The Blue Man of Sahara “

It was Mustafa!

” Stubborn woman! you had to climb alone, huh?! ” he said.

He came back to the dunes, cause he wanted to spend the day with me.

The rest of the dune we climbed together… it was a very difficult climb – the sand was becoming unwalkable due to heat.

12.Elena Levon Photography Morocco - 12

As we reached the top we both crashed on the sand…

He said;

” You know, you won’t believe me, but I have never climbed this one before! “

and then added – ” Oh wow! down there is my village! See!? It’s right there! “

I wish you could have seen the absolute child-like surprise on his face…

This was priceless!

We are talking about the guy who does those tours into Erg Chebbi every other day!

He took a few pictures of me while I did what I do best – being me …

Morocco - 23

yes, climbed in a skirt and barefoot! I dare you!

Morocco - 25

taking it all in...

taking it all in…

Our way back was faster, for the most part because the sand was so hot that we had to run down the dunes, not walk…

We saw the white fox once again. I was relived, since I wasn’t the only one who was seeing things.

When we got back to the nomad family’s tent, I packed my water and camera, said goodbye to everyone, then Mustafa, Jimi and I headed to our camp for the day…

Morocco - 13

In evening there was another group arriving. Mustafa wasn’t happy, because the group consisted of spoiled English and American tourists on one of their thousands of dollars 7 day trip across Morocco! They needed “special treatment”.

I can’t stand those!

Asked Mustafa if I could have dinner with the cook and staff outside on the dunes, instead of sitting next to a bunch of snobs, who dared to say ” Oh no, I don’t have reception! I need to call my granddaughter, to see if my grand kids went to bed ! “

That’s London for ya…

“Yes, London. You know: fish, chips, cup ‘o tea, bad food, worse weather, Mary fucking Poppins… LONDON.” – ( Snatch )

As we got closer to our camp I saw a a husband and a wife doing some housework around the camp.

Mustafa introduced me to the lady and explained that I’m staying here for the day.

I extended my hand to her. She gave me hers and then artfully took her own hand to her lips and kissed it.

They both noticed the surprise on my face. Mustafa explained that it’s a custom.

So I did the same… the woman laughed, in the approving sort of way…

Most of the day was spend trying to hide from the heat… but even inside the tent was too hot…

Mustafa cooked some Tagine for lunch and it seemed like he was expecting someone…

In about 30 minutes I hear a very loud sound of jewellery, right outside our tent…

A woman all in red walks in…

Wow! The soul of the desert were looking right through me, with her piercing dark eyes…

She was Mustafa’s relative. I really wanted to take her picture, but didn’t want to disrespect her, by asking for one..

But I did find it while googling ” Berber woman of sahara desert tattoo “

She had a Berber symbol tattoo on her forehead.

7

I greeted her like Berber women do, this time we did it simultaneously.

We ate food with our hands and she was looking at me with the same awe as I was looking at her…

Mustafa was being the interpreter.

She invited me to her family across the dune, but I had to decline…

I’m not as tough as her, to walk in this heat, even in shoes, it’s pure hell. That’s why when they have to make a long distance journey from one family member to the other, they stop in between and dip their feet in water at the near by camps.

I did see her one last time when she was doing laundry and what seemed like taking a “Sahara shower”

She sat there in a shade with a bucket full of water with her feet in it and dressed in some white robe. She called me to her…

I tried to run as fast as I could to her from the tent … the sand was like fire by now.

She laughed laud at my sad attempt to be a Berber woman …

We sat together in a shade studying each others faces and dipping our legs in water… she then gathered some water with her hands and threw it on me …

I smiled because the heat was so strong that any kind of “coolness” will do…

Seeing how happy I am, she took almost all the water with a smaller bucket and showered me from head to toe with it …

We both laughed hysterically!

In evening I went up by myself to a different dune for Sunset…

13.Elena Levon Photography Morocco - 13

I was happy to spend another night in the desert looking at the milky way and listening to Mustafa’s stories of his life in the dunes.

Close to 5 am he woke me up. It was time to say goodbye to Sahara.

I got on top of my friend,  Jimi and we made our way out of the desert…

Mustafa did stop for 5 minutes so I could take a few shots of the Sunrise …

While I was taking my shot …16.Elena Levon Photography Morocco - 16

He crashed on the sand near Jimi …

17.Elena Levon Photography Morocco - 17

Yes, I may have left Sahara behind, but I did bring a piece of it with me…

It’s with me at all times…

Sahara in a bottle

Sahara in a bottle

~

Wanted to share an amazing Artist with all of you …

He’s work is one-of-a-kind!

Ladies and gentlemen, meet,  Louis Eliopoulos

His latest work is one of his series of Femme Fatale – Cleopatra…

recognize anyone you know? )

recognize anyone you know?

 _____________________

 The woman behind the words …

” Memories “

Internet Movie Data Base

Official Website