The beginning of 2014 was the best new years experience I've ever had. 3 days earlier I travelled through the High Atlas mountains before finally arriving in the Sahara desert to spend my new years eve star gazing, chilling around a campfire and listening to live traditional moroccan music.
Entering the desert happened almost instantaneously, we were driving through rocky terrain amidst weathered rocks and suddenly out of nowhere we were surrounded by the desolate desert sand dunes.
After a 3 days drive through the High Atlas mountains our guide Hamou had brought my friends and I to Merzouga, a small village located in the Sahara desert. From here we said goodbye to Hamou and continued for another hour camel trekking to our campsite.
The air was crisp and it was surprisingly cold as we made our way to our campsite in the middle of the desert. The scenery around us was surreal, as soon as Merzouga disappeared from sight it felt like we were traversing another planet! And as far as the eye could see there was nothing but waves of orange sand moulded by the wind cascading all the way to the end of the horizon.
The ride took us roughly an hour, but it was so much fun taking all the scenery in, I would have loved to have continued for a little longer.
From a distance I could hear the faint sound of melodic drums echoing through the air. It felt like I was being ushered into an African tribal village. When we arrived there was live traditional music welcoming us into camp.
When we finally settled into our tents we headed out to spend some time exploring the dunes around the campsite.
After dinner everyone gathered around the campfire in the middle of the campsite where some of the local musicians were performing folk dances and more traditional music.
In between all the music, dance and star gazing I spent the the night meeting other travellers and trading stories.
It became insanely cold when the sun set and the temperature plummeted. In the Sahara the temperatures can drop as low as 0 degrees celsius after dark. Luckily for us we were given 3 camel blankets to sleep in. Unfortunately it wasn't enough for me, it was so cold I had to sleep that night under 3 layers of camel fur and fully clothed - with my beanie, thermals, jacket, boots and socks!
The highlight of the whole trip for me was definitely seeing the milky way so clearly. Being out in the middle of nowhere, far from buildings and street lights meant that there was no light pollution in the air. So when you looked up into the sky, you could literally see the milky way! It was incredible.
The next day we woke up super early to climb one of the nearby sand dunes and watch the sun rise. It was incredibly difficult for me to wake up because of how cold it was in the morning but definitely worth the effort.
Trekking on sand was tough, after awhile it did get a little frustrating because the sand was sinking under the weight of my shoes. Every step I took dragged and I felt like I was constantly taking two steps forward and one step back.
After our hike we returned to camp, had a quick breakfast and made our way back to Merzouga.
Back at the Riad we decided to take the Vortex out for a throw as the sun set over the sand dunes. We noticed there were two local children watching us so we asked them if they wanted to join in. They were super eager to play and got really into it. Playing catch with the local kids was a fun way to close out our trip.
Getting to spend new years eve in the Sahara desert has been one of the most amazing experiences I've had. If you are ever heading to Northern Africa, definitely do not miss the opportunity to check it out!
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Hi, I'm Phillip Lay — I love to travel, I'm passionate about photography and I love sharing my experiences. Let me inspire you to travel more with some stories, photography, and useful tips from my travels. Join the newsletter and receive exclusive email updates by signing up below...