Remember when you were 10 years old and fooled around on "Word Art” searching for the most perfect color scheme for your 3D essay title? I want you to remember Desert Sunrise. A pale blue fades to white and fades back to a bright, warm orange. I have never seen this exact replication in nature, in fact I never believed it existed, until my 6 hour minibus ride back from the gateway of the Sahara Desert returning back to the city of Marrakech.
I’ll take you back to the day before. Winding around the paved roads, hugging the sides of the High Atlas Mountains. The scenery changed throughout handful of hours. Red turned to green which turned to brown then to gray and back to orange again, all with the same cloudless, electric blue backdrop.
We passed rest stops after viewpoint, marked by tables of colored geode rocks, handmade jewelry and tiny painted tajines. Scarves and hats, jewelry cases and trinkets, carved rocks and hand painted canvases. Small replica souks sprouted like cacti in the empty highway framing the mountains.
After a day long’s journey, we finally unloaded from the van near basecamp and from one seat to another, loaded atop our camels. To the left, gray veiled mountains left a vision like a burst star in the past. The sky turned from its earlier bright blue to thick strokes ombred oranges. While the white sun dipped quickly under the horizon, we bobbed back and fourth on our desert animals towards the makeshift tents we’d be sleeping in that night. When we stopped to watch the sunset, I could only think to myself that I’ve never n anything quite like this. Nothing blocking the way from where I stood, watching the sun’s slow connection to the earth. For a while, the ball of light hung as if by a string just skimming where it would soon sink beneath.
The white circle turned hot as if a flame ignited from the sand steadily heating up the figure, igniting it and lighting the sky ablaze with shades of red and orange and yellow I’d never seen before. No rays, just a strict circle emitting a disconnected last life of light from the day. The sky turned from a hot orange, the ghost of day’s warmth, to a chilling gray blue night as the last sliver of neon rays plunged below the clay, not to be seen again until daybreak.
The Sahara is the world’s largest hot desert, stretching nearly two million square miles across Africa. We were just brushing the edges of this massive area of land that the earth has created, experiencing just a moment, a segment of such a huge part of the world. The nomadic Berber people who inhabit the Atlas Mountains welcomed us into their world with mint tea poured high from decorative silver kettles and a massive tajine meal of yellow chicken, thick sliced and slow cooked with carrots and potatoes, covered with Moroccan spices.
The temperature dropped at least 30 degrees that night. The moon emitted a light so bright, it lit the way in any direction. In the night, shapes form but don’t hold much structure. You can see ahead of you, but whatever is out there is masked enough for your eyes to acclimate- just enough so that you might as well be alone, immersed in an illusion. The junction of time is held there for only you in a veil of the moon’s glow on sand. Faint sounds of woven drums beating and whoops of singing echoed somewhere from behind.
Later, bundled in layers of wool blankets to keep body heat in. The restless hours were well worth it as night slowly crept into dawn. We stepped outside the tents to the sunrise against a pastel sky, the first blinding white rays of morning in all their glory.