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Nomad, Meet Nomads

When my mom texts me, she refers to me as “Nomad”. It started as a typo that her phone autocorrected, and stuck due to my longstanding travel addiction. When I rode a camel into the Sahara Desert to meet some real nomads this summer, she found it highly amusing.

Traditionally, the nomadic Berbers in Morocco took their livestock into the mountains in the summer to graze. They then came back down into the desert in the winter, when the mountains became too cold. This meant never keeping a permanent home; an idea that more than a few of us have fantasized about before. Or is it just me? What we may not have imagined is that our majestic dromedary steed would be named Jimi Hendrix. The Berbers I encountered are perhaps not so traditional anymore.

The ride into the desert is surreal. High up on grumpy Jimi’s back, the late afternoon sun makes the dunes glow a perfect orange, and long camel-shaped shadows stretch across the sand. I became hypnotized watching Jimi’s steady, methodical feet plod across the shifting terrain.

After dining from tajines in a beautifully carpeted tent, and stargazing from the top of a darkened dune, my favourite part of the desert experience was climbing into bed. A thin mattress had been set up for me inside a sturdy tent, but sleeping “indoors” in a place like this seemed crazy. I dragged my mattress out into the open where I could sleep like a real nomad: with no roof over my head. And as I fell asleep, I heard a few of the Berber guides setting themselves up in the exact same way. I knew I was onto something.

Amy Smithers woke up with ears full of sand, but it was totally worth it. Right now she’s living in one place again, but that probably won’t last for very long.

I became hypnotized watching Jimi's steady, methodical feet plod across the shifting terrain.

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