Flushing Toilets in the Sahara Desert


We had a choice of sharing a bathroom or having our own. Eh, what? A bathroom in the middle of the Sahara? My wife doesn’t mind a simple tent, dirt floors, sleeping in bags and eating out of tin plates, but she’d much prefer to have her own bathroom. So when there was the option to have one, even if it meant a pit toilet, we went for it.

We learned later that these tents were not REI gear but more comfortable units with beds. And a bathroom.

The trek to the campsite started in Erfoud where our driver Mustapha handed us over to our 4×4 driver (Ibrahim). Including two stops along the way for wonderful views of the desert, it took about 45 minutes before we got to the camel rendezvous. Imagine my surprise to see 4×4 tracks crisscrossing the desert like the veins of an enormous animal when all I expected to see were camel and human prints.

Our guide Mohammed helped us onto the camels (more specifically, dromedaries who have the single hump), which was not without humorous moments, and off we went.

Not far from camp, Mohammed stopped the caravan, had us dismount and climb to the top of a dune so we could watch the sunset. Many another caravan claimed its own dune to do the same over the 2½ hours we were waiting.

Waiting for the sunset on a dune

Just when the sun was getting low, a huge black storm cloud formed to obscure the horizon. We all got back on the camels to resume our way to camp.

We were greeted with the customary Moroccan hospitality of mint tea and cookies. A large wood fire was burning in a circle surrounded by twenty chairs. Luminarias were placed regularly all around.

Fireplace circle

We were then led to our tent. Ours was one of four facing inward toward a large center area covered by Berber rugs.

Inside was a king-sized bed on a rug that covered the entire living area, draped walls surrounding all sides except for a cushioned wall behind the bed that acted like a headboard. An electric lamp hung under the tent’s ridge. These niceties I’m guessing describe all the tents in the complex, not only ours.

But, as I said, ours also was a ‘superior’ tent, an upgrade from tents that shared a bathroom. A sink with hot and cold running water was in the center illuminated by another electric light, a shower with hot water to the right. Ah yes, the toilet. It was a flushable porcelain unit. Flushable! True, it drained into a pit toilet but you’d never know it but for a faint odor.

For all guests, there was a special dining room tent.

The amount of food that was served reached epic proportions, clearly more than any person could comfortably eat.

After dinner, we were entertained with Berber music by the staff.

I was looking forward to a dark-sky night but a bright full moon prevented all of us from seeing the Milky Way. Such a shame.

I could go on with other details.

Let’s just say that the accommodations were not what we expected. It goes without saying that guest services were very good. Is this what they call glamping? I’m guessing that the entrepreneurs who created this wanted to make sleeping under the stars as comfortable, painless and worry-free as possible for the greatest number of guests. We lacked for nothing in comfort; we could’ve settled for much less and still had a wonderful time. The toilet made us flush with excitement.

The following morning, there was a wonderful buffet breakfast. Everyone sat at tables outside in the cool air.

It was time to return to Erfoud on our camels and say goodbye to the Sahara.

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