From the Sahara to DC in a day

Guide cooking our breakfastSleeping in the tent, shoulder to shoulder, the wind flapped the tent and the smallest of the sand particles somehow made it through the berber carpet walls and plastered themselves onto me (remember, I was sleeping against the wall). When I woke in the morning, I looked like a ghost. I was completely covered in sand as fine as flour, and had it in every crevasse and orifice of my body. It was days after I arrived back in Virginia before I couldn’t blow any more sand out of my nose. At least the wind had died down, and I could open my eyes and enjoy the camel ride back. I couldn’t believe that I’d be home tomorrow afternoon after having done this today. The guides cooked us bread and coffee over the fire, and we packed up the camels and went back.

Drove about 6 hours back to XXXXX, then 1.5 to XXXXX. We were all exhausted by now (8pm) but had an evening of activities planned, including finishing packing B’s apartment and getting to the airport by 5am. We also went to B’s friend Muhammed Ali’s house and had cous cous with his family around midnight. He lives in a very poor neighborhood (called “popular city”, which I guess means “populated” not popular in the fashion sense) and is pretty poor himself. In XXXXX, most people retire early, not because they have the money but because their kids are old enough to work and I guess people just get old quickly. Muhammed was probably my age, was in college or had recently graduated, and was struggling to get a good job. With the money he did earn, he had to support his mom, dad, younger brother, and handicapped sister who all lived in the same house as him. He also had a girlfriend he wanted to marry but could not because I guess it’s really expensive to get married and he was worried she would find someone else to marry that could pay it. Anyhow, he was a really great guy and spoke enough english to have a good conversation with him. The whole family was very generous and kind, and the poor mom obviously spent a lot of time preparing the fancy cous cous meal for the American guests.

12 suitcases, ready to go homeAfter Muhammed’s (about 1 am), we took a taxi to meet “N” again. She had a fundraising project for the youth that we were buying and taking back to our church. Taxi’d back to B’s, and packed/cleaned till 4:30am. Took 3 taxis to get our 12 suitcases and carryons to the airport. Somehow we knew they weren’t going to let 4 people check 12 suitcases and about 8 carryons, but I think B was hoping he could charm them into letting him do that. They didn’t submit to his charm, and offered to let him check the extra suitcases for $150/suitcase. This was after waiting in line for at least 30 minutes to talk to the special problems person. This wasted too much time, and by the time we discovered the $150/suitcase fee, the plane had begun boarding and we had maybe 15 minutes before the flight left. So, there we stand in the middle of the terminal, opening the suitcases and throwing underwear, socks, toiletries, whatever into a big pile, trying to figure out what is worth $150. We ended up leaving a suitcase and whole bunch of stuff, paying for one extra bag, and sneaking 2 oversized carryons past the ticket counter.

We are now running to customs, which was very slow. Ran through security and I got to the gate just before departure. Cam was on board first, but we sat there on the plane for 10 minutes thinking B and Ryan didn’t make it. Ends up B had a pair of Creative Memories scissors in the carryon, and had it so jammed tight the zipper wouldn’t open when security wanted to remove the scissors. It took some pliers and some policework to extricate the lethal weapon, fortunately no-one noticed the extra Arabic bibles surrounding the scissors.

Anyhow, crazy trip, and after pulling an all nighter packing after spending an unrestful night in the Sahara desert, after spending an unrestful night in a cave in Tatooine, we all zonked out for the long plane ride back to DC. Very tired… happy to be going home… and a changed man from the experience.

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