Before penetrating the Sahara towards Algeria, the Moroccan caravaneer must cross several Djebels, mountainous ranges, south of the Atlas mountain range. Because of their proximity with the desert, these mountains alternate between jagged cliffs and vast desert plateaux. But before this long and difficult journey through the "South sands", the meharist has to find an ultimate caravanserai.

Lost within the small winding alleys of the old Medina, this building, called "the caravans's palace", is a place where the caravaneers stop. It also accommodates pilgrims and merchants making a stopover in the cities. The caravanserai is strengthened by walls and has stables for the animals, the stores for all the goods and the rooms for the people passing through.

Caravansérail d'une Médina du Maroc

Once the men and the animals had a rest, the last merchandises negotiated and hauled on the camels, the meharist leaves the shelter of the caravanserai. He bids farewell to his friends with a few "Salaam Aleikoum", then springs towards the infinite extents of the great Erg. But before walking the sand of the broad dunes, seeking shelter in the shade of the basalt rocks, he must, first of all, cross the Djebels…

 

These small mountain ranges are an ultimate obstacle before the desert. They form a more mineral landscape: basaltic rocks and blocks of granite cover the ground on which survive here and there some desiccated shrubs.


Touaregs au bod du feu - Sahara marocain

When they reach a well, the caravaneers and their animals make a halt in these arid hills landscape. Before the night, they put up their "marabous", broad tents for the bivouac, then serve the traditional sugary mint tea. The evening meal is frugal but the fire will make it possible for the men to sleep while one of them keeps an eye on the animals which feed not far from there.

Bivouac sous le Siroua (3305 m) - Maroc

The following day, the sun rises while projecting orange colors on the summits all around. It is then that the meharists launch their caravan, which they just harnessed after the first prayer of the day.

Whereas the sky loses its warm colors of the sunrise, the caravan crosses eerie landscapes where the basalt rocks, worked by the strong winds of the Sahara, take on surprising shapes.

 
 

Then, like had announced the Tuareg guiding its camels through the hills, the caravan reaches the first sand plateaux.

The large Sahara appears, immense in orange and red. The powerful dunes even cover the huge blue basalt hills which mark out the ultimate plateau before reaching Algeria.

Fearing the powerful wind of the Harmattan and its sandstorms, the caravan continues, this time in a universe more and more invaded by sand. The next day, the small dunes, called "barkhanes", disappeared. From now on, it's the broad and high orange sand dunes that the caravan will have to cross with its batch of difficulties, all the way to Tombouctou, in the distant Mali…

- Watercolor paintings by Jean-Pierre Petit -

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