We wake up in Agdz, a village of mud bricks located in the south of Marocco and located in the middle of a palm grove stretching for 200 kilometres. Agdz is in Draa Valley, an ancient river which nowadays only flows during the dry season, when they open the dam in the north.
We spent the night in the kasbah and in the morning the house owner, whose family line descends from a noble heritage, offers us a tour of its alleys and terraces. From the towers there is a stunning view and we fill our eyes of it, since today we are going to travel to the arid south.
Eventually our journey starts and after about one hundred kilometres we arrive in Zagora, the regional knot for goods coming from all over the country, the once last stronghold before the desert. There is a sign to be seen reading ‘52 days by camel to Timbuctu‘.
Nowadays the road goes further and want to see the end of it. Beyond the village there is an incredible landscape and we have the feeling to have crossed the line. At the horizon a small mountain chain waits for us and hides the desert, the very desert with sand and dunes.
We keep going south for 100 more kilometres. The sand starts to cover the border of the road. Finally, we reach our destination: M’hamid, the last village before the void. Now for Timbuctu it’s ‘just’ 50 days, by camel.
We already saw on the map the road would end here, but being in front of it, in front of the end of everything, it’s still an awkward feeling.
Before leaving Italy we booked a night in the desert for tomorrow, but where we will sleep in a few hours is still a mystery. Among the many people trying to hook us we find our contact, the one we should have called the next day, and he shows us a riad where we can spend the night.
Once our stuff is secured, we take a short walk far from the road, following the rocks on the bottom of a dry river. In the less of half an hour we arrive in a village that seems like it popped out from the sand. What from a distance looked like farmed land are instead palm leaves used as a barrier against the wind.
We are in a timeless place. Instead of exploring this quite settlement, we stop respectfully in front of the modern mosque revealing the trace of human life. Sixty kilometres part us from the great dunes, but here starts already the desert.
The next day our expedition starts. There is no road, our guide follows a path on the ground crossed by thousand others. We left in the afternoon and a few hours later we are already in front of our first mirage. Now I fully understand the meaning of that sign – 52 days by camel – a promise that encouraged the caravans to continue among sand storms and allucinations.
Then, arising from the flat and endless land, we see the first soft dunes. It took us about one hour and a half by car to get here and this place looks like a valid alternative to Merzouga, the other Moroccan destination for night-camps in the desert, closer to the road – a thirty-minute camel ride – but too crowded to enjoy the silence of the sands.
Our vehicle leaves us at the camp which will host us for the night. We hurry towards the top of the highest dunes to enjoy the sunset before the sudden coldness befalls us. We are just 35 kilometres from Algeria, at the outer limits of the Sahara.
We seat down, barefooted on the red sand. And we gaze at the endless space in front of us.