Erg Chebbi, Sahara Desert, Morocco

I find myself in front of Erg Chebbi, one among the oceans of dunes on the western edge of the Sahara Desert. Like a border scored in the sand, all infrastructure abruptly ends at Erfoud a few miles down the road. Civilisation gives way to the hamada's rocky textures and further on the horizon the Erg's sweeping, shimmery expanse.

Shelter, paramount amid the austerity of such a landscape, is impermanent and primitive - threadbare rugs underfoot, a tarp overhead and a firepit dug in the sand. When lost in the immensity of the desert, time seems to fluctuate. Fleeting, kaleidoscopic moments of intense, soul-wrenching beauty at sunrise and sunset rapidly succeed one another, sandwiched between languid hours of exhausting heat and frigid nights.

Tradition holds great importance to the Berber peoples inhabiting the Sahara. Techniques used for thousands of years have yet to be bettered by any modern equivalent. Earthy tagines slow-cooked on embers, daily afternoon siestas that provide respite from the scorching sun, nightly gatherings around the fire - all stem from a routine based first and foremost on the freedom to live in one of the most inhospitable places on earth.

This article appears in Volume 25: The Pioneer Issue.

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