Thursday, April 25, 2013

Stargazing In The Sahara

At Continental Travelnurse, even your job is an exciting adventure because you get to live and truly know a part of the UK. But many of our nurses also take the opportunity of living and working in the UK to save some money and then take a grand vacation. Tiffani certainly did that. She shared her adventures in the Sahara with us, including a great travelogue and some amazing photos. Here is Tiffani's story

I took a week to explore Morocco with a tour group. My friend and I found a 2-for-1 deal with Travel Talk, which was 7 nights and included the Marrakech markets, camping in the Sahara Desert, and trekking in the High Atlas Mountains.

DJ and I landed in Marrakech at 11:00am and met a few others from our group in the airport. Since the 6 of us had the afternoon to ourselves, we decided to venture into Jemaa El-Fna for a bit of pre-tour culture shock.

We were the only tourists around, it seemed, and the market was relatively empty. People approached us from all angles trying to sell us knick-knacks or put monkeys on our shoulders. One girl from our little group was led away from us from a woman who insisted on drawing henna on her arm. DJ followed to make sure she was okay, and when the rest of us joined them we saw that DJ was also having henna drawn on her arm. Before I could choose a design, my arm was being drawn on as well. I tried to negotiate a price, but the women joked around and avoided naming a price until they were finished - which ended up being 400 dirham (equivalent to 40 euros, at the time). The women refused to bargain with us, so we ended up leaving them with our wallets empty and our arms dazzling with henna and glitter. We wandered through the souks, which is a labyrinth of shops, selling clothing, food, and all sorts of shiny objects. It was quite mesmerizing. That evening we met with our tour group, and set out the following day for the desert.

When we returned on day 7 of the tour, myself and a few other girls went to a hammam - the most talked about spa treatment in Morocco! We sat together in a sauna, had our skin exfoliated and our hair washed, and then relaxed with a 1-hour massage. We could have paid 500 dh to go to the hotel hammam, but our tour leader had a friend who charged us only 300 dh each. By the time we left, night had fallen, and Jemaa El-Fna was alive! It had completely transformed from when we had seen it on the first day. Food stalls were everywhere, people were dancing and singing and doing magic tricks, and the atmosphere was completely relaxed and enjoyable. This is the Marrakech that everyone talks about when they go home.

The Sahara (Zagora, Chigaga, and Tamegrout)
The desert was the highlight of the trip! Our tour leader, Abdul, loved telling us all about Morocco and the difference between the Arabs and the Berbers. We walked through a rural Sunday market on our way to our camp. Each night was spent gathered around a bonfire, under the stars, and in the calm of the Sahara. We dined on chicken tagine and fresh fruit. We rode jeeps through the sand dunes, and had a picnic in the beautiful oasis. Our tour leader arranged a private tour for us through the rural village of Tamegrout - and we even sat in the main room of a local's house, drinking sweet mint tea (a.k.a "Whiskey Berber").

On the fourth day, we rode camels! It was incredible. We were informed that it was mating season, so all the female camels were kept very far away from the males we were riding. Otherwise, we may have raced off into the distance for an experience none of us wanted to have. Since the sun was beating down from a cloudless sky, we were given scarves and taught how to tie them like turbans. This was to prevent nosebleeds and syncope. I absolutely loved riding the camels. But for anyone who hasn't ridden a camel before: bring paracetamol! Our bodies were aching afterward.

The High Atlas Mountains
The final part of the tour involved resting in a Bed & Breakfast in the village of Imlil. We trekked up the mountain one morning, which wasn't easy after riding the camels. There was snow on the ground where we stopped for lunch, so we had a snowball fight. Once we were back at the B&B, one of the staff was walking with her toddler, who tripped and gashed his forehead open. Since everyone on the group knew I was a nurse, they came looking for me. I had to improvise with the dressing supplies on hand, but first aid is called first aid for a reason. I assessed the child and bandaged his forehead while he sat calmly on his mother's lap. It is moments like these that truly bring out the nurse in me.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable trip, which I would recommend to everyone. Abdul was amazing and taught us a lot about Morocco: politics, religion, culture, and education. As I write, I am remembering the tranquility of the Sahara, the sun on my skin, and the humble reminder than I am just one person on such a vast and diverse planet.

-- The Travel Diary and Photos of Tiffani

What a great adventure Tiffani! Thanks for sharing with us. If you want to see where your nursing skills can take you, come visit the Continental Travelnurse website.