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Wilderness Lodge

April 04, 2007

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It was almost dark when we reached the Merzouga area next to the Sahara Erg Chebbi sand dunes and we stayed in a tiny village called Hassa Labiad as this is where Allessandra and her nomad Berber husband and his family lived. We were exhausted from the long, cramped drive (unlike Mozart my long legs could not unfurl or straighten out nor did I have a comfy “mom-pillow” to sleep and rest on).

Alessandra knew my preference was for something authentic, clean and safe. As a mother herself, she understands the concerns of a mother traveling to the Sahara with a young child. She gave me several choices, but thought this very, very simple one run by a woman photographer from Japan (who also lived in Paris for years) would work because it was clean, quiet, and  hygienic with good food. It was a typical guest house made out of mud and straw like the rest of the village (although with running water which most of the village did not have since it is very expensive for most).

It takes a little while to adapt to the simplicity in the desert, especially after having spent the last two nights in a deluxe riad. The room looked dark, gloomy and stark on first seeing,but later after a day in the desert’s bright sun, its design made more sense and I found it a good place to sleep during the heat of the day. It is very much a simple pueblo feel which makes sense for the desert and has a beauty of its own. I actually enjoyed the outer areas from the start including the terrace with views to the dunes and down to the village houses and the courtyard gardens.

Apparently some people like to party when they come to the desert with drinking wildly and even smoking hash. Most tours are done in a kind of assembly line way and young backpackers like that route. Alessandra knew we were looking for a family rated kind of place and a peaceful, creative experience and this was a good base. I don’t know if anyone else was there our first night beside the Japanese owner,but the second night some young, sweet Japanese girls came.

We grew quite fond of Yoseph who cooked and served the food and his young (around 10 years old) helper. We enjoyed a good meal, another tagine of course, fresh baked bread and mint tea. He fixed us beautiful orange slices with cinnamon on top, but we decided not to eat them because we had not peeled them. We did not miss this tempting treat tho, as later we asked for oranges that we peeled and for cinnamon and surprisingly it is a good combination.

The dining room area was also decorated in  traditional way with lots of use of bamboo and her interesting black and white photos of the people in the desert that she has grown so fond of. Mozart and DaVinci played the drums a little, like they use to like to do at home or the drum shop or drum circles in our area. The place was also decorated with Berber designs that are very geometric and remind me of some of the desert American Indian designs I have seen.

We had a busy day ahead of us so we were glad to get to bed. I had a momentary panic when Mozart told me I had an ant crawling on my face and then saw a bug on the wall. I think one of my primal fears is creepy, crawly things having a feast of me and this grim mud hut wasn’t making me feel too secure. I had a minor hissy fit because I was tired and out of my comfort zone. DaVinci wanted to make sure I mentioned that as I am not always a polly anna optimist... most of the time I can see things on the bright side, but I have my moments.

Like the missing seat belts and fog, there was not much choice, but to surrender and trust, so I did and got a good nights sleep. As usual things looked better in the morning and I felt much better. No other bugs got me or I was too tired to notice.

It was exciting to see the dunes and the outside area is quite lovely and we watched the village wake up and had a nice breakfast. Mozart was VERY excited because this was her big day that she had been waiting for... a concert of a lifetime and night in the Sahara desert!

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