The dunes of Erg Chebbi

After driving to the end of the road, we do not want to leave the Sahara quite yet. The endless dunes, camels, and friendly people draw us in for one more night.

While I sit in an internet café, I hear Mare outside, entertaining a group of young men, making them laugh. So I listen through the window.

“Do you drink?  Do you ever drink too much?” A male voice asks her.

I stick my head out of the window to see. Mare lifts her sunglasses and points to her black eye. “Does this answer your question?”

The hoard of men howls with laughter. I figure I’d better head on outside before Mare incites a riot, as the crowd is growing. Shoot…, she has them eating out of the palm of her hand.

I show up and say, “I didn’t do that to her!” One of the guys speaks some English, but mostly I speak by pointing and using hand signs. More laughter ensues. Then they seemingly all at once, invite us to stay at one guest house or another. We drive off, wave goodbye to our new friends, and find our own guest house.

Abu greets us in front of “Maison Merzouga Guest House,” a place we target from in our guide book. We ask about the price of a room.

“No, no…let’s have some tea first,” he insists. “Come up onto the terrace with me. Do you want sugar in your tea?”

The terrace

The three of us sip tea, on the rooftop terrace, basking in the sun, while overlooking dunes, the village, and gardens below.

Abu calls us part of his family, not just guests. He leads us to a second story tower, and shows us a clean room with an orthopedic mattress, sparkling bathroom, an air conditioner, heater, and a window overlooking some of the Sahara’s mounds of sand known as Erg Chebbi. Of course, we have to take it. For less than one-hundred US dollars, the price includes dinner and breakfast. Abu says he will get us beer, and even join us for one after the sun goes down and Allah cannot see him.

Running in traffic

After Mare and I take a long-overdue shower, we sit on the terrace and once again marvel at the Sahara scenery. A camel runs loose down the dirt road while the owner chases it. The scene reminds us of our lost love…Marley, our dog who has similar characteristics as the camel. No worries, as Abu shows up with three cans of beer, and joins us, despite the daylight and apparently, the possibility of being seen by Allah. We love this place. They even have Wi-Fi downstairs.

The beers keep coming, as does a group of motorcyclists riding “Honda Gold Wings” (Not everybody’s perfect). I want to show them my old Harley tattoo as a joke, but am having a good enough time on the roof. The Maison Merzouga guest house is filling up. The coldness of night forces us to join the group of people inside this huge house next to a roaring fire. It’s a jovial atmosphere, children running around, a few folks on internet, and Abu and his brother Omar becoming our best friends.

He hugs Mare and looks at me. “You make gymnastics with Fatima tonight!”

I laugh. (I get it)

“Yes,” he says. ‘Make gymnastics every night and every morning. Keep Fatima and you happy!”

We chuckle over this several times throughout the evening as Abu brings up “gymnastics” repeatedly.

Ready to “make gymnastics?”

Mare and I feast on a King’s dinner, consisting of several courses of cooked vegetables, tajines of beef and chicken, way too much food. Abu sends us a bottle of wine, on the house, and we are too full for desert. We sneak off to bed.

The next morning, while saying goodbyes, I tell Abu that we made gymnastics.

“No,” he says in disbelief. “You had too much alcohol.”

“Yes,” Mare says, “At night, and again in the morning!”

Abu, Mare, Omar and two of Abu’s children

Abu hugs me with approval and kisses me on the cheek. Mare and I ride off on a new adventure, heading towards the high Atlas Mountains and Marrakesh.

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