Sunrise Over The Dunes

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Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

I wasn’t sure if the alarm had gone off or if I had just dreamt it. No one was stirring outside and the warmth under the heavy mound of blankets convinced me not to find out for sure.

A few minutes later, I had my answer. Pete rolled over, nudged me and whispered: “Do we get up?

We both groaned in protest but forced ourselves to rise from our slumber. Still no movement from the other tents as we crept around the campsite, piling on layers of clothes and washing up. We stood outside Mohammed The Original‘s tent and gently beckoned him out. We could tell that he wasn’t pleased with this early rise, but we were determined to reach the top of the biggest dune to watch the sunrise.

Cozy bed in the desert

Our cozy bed.

Just beyond that dun, the midnight blue was fading to royal as the sun’s rays began to reach the horizon. We started the easy trek with gentle rises and falls in loose peaks of sand, Mohammed lead us along a specific path with only a gradual incline.

It started to get steeper. Some hills were such that we needed to run up them in order to make any headway and save from slipping too quickly down into the soft sand.

I tired and stopped to catch my breath. Pete and Mohammed kept going onward, determined to make it in time, and the gap between us widened. The brighter blues were beginning to reach more of the vast sky, and I worried I’d be caught on the wrong side of the big dune and miss the brilliant sunrise entirely.

I figured I wouldn’t make it. I reached a flat spot with a great view over the expansive desert behind me and sat down. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes for a brief meditation, and soaked in the absolute, ear-ringing silence and the dreamlike moment.

I was in the magnificent, other-worldly Sahara desert (an essential stop on any good Morocco itinerary). Pinch me.

I opened my eyes and saw the pinks and yellows starting to color the sky, and for a brief second, the tallest dunes in my view sparkled as the dawn’s early light reached the peaks. I sat perfectly still and watched the light creep slowly down the dunes and wake up the world below me. Camp stirred with the others lumbering from their tents. Still, I could hear nothing, and savored my quiet view from above.

Pete made his way back down the dune and joined me a few minutes later, gushing: “That was one of the most incredible sights I’ve ever seen!” I believed him, but could hardly be disappointed in my own experience enjoying the first dazzling moments of this day alone. We were both giddy, and I commemorated the momentous occasion like any person would when in a giant expanse of fluffy, inviting sand…

Although I expect others would have been able to celebrate more gracefully.

And these are Pete’s awesome photos of his memorable morning!

Sahara Pre Sunrise
Sahara Sunrise

how we did it

Our visit to the Sahara Desert was a part of our wonderful tour with Merzouga Journeys. For a full review and the itinerary for our entire tour, please click here.

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  1. That’s close to the view I have every morning on my drive to work on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, except that if I look in the rearview mirror, I see massive, sparkly skyscrapers!

  2. That is stunning! I had a similar experience (including finding a comfortable spot half way up ;)) in the Sossusvlei sand dunes of Namibia. Watching the sun rise over the desert is one of life’s great wonders 🙂

    1. Thanks Laurence, now I don’t feel so bad for not making it all the way (I’m not the only one!) It is definitely one of the big wonders. 🙂

  3. That is IT! My whole life I’ve dreamed of sleeping in the desert and somehow, we haven’t put in the Middle-East really in our RTW itinerary. We were looking at a side-trip to Jordan from Israel but THAT’S IT! I’m now convincing Matt to spend a while in the area – won’t be too hard haha. A sunrise over sand dunes?? Magical!

    1. How could you leave the Middle East out if that is your dream?! Pure silliness! 🙂 Although Morocco is not in the Middle East, but you can do that in Jordan too I am sure. It is a must. After traveling for 2.5 years, that was definitely a lifetime highlight.

  4. I love sunrises and this one looks magical 🙂 I’m also a fan of the bed – looks super cozy 😉

    1. I think we had about 10 blankets on top of us and they must have weighed 20 pounds! And with our wool hats and mitts on, it was pretty cozy! 🙂

    1. No sand in my mouth, but I am still finding sand in my clothes and backpack. I hate to get rid of it though, it’s such a pretty orange color!

  5. This is definitely one of the tours I’m looking forward to when we finally make it that way.


    REAL STARS! I almost flipped out when I saw the Milky Way for the first time.

    1. yes, the stars are incredible when there is no light around you except for the moon. You will no doubt love this tour if you take it…

    1. Thanks Jade, it really wasn’t that cold. It wasn’t warm enough to sleep under the stars, but the winds were very calm so it was quite pleasant.

    1. Hi Mary, it was such a surreal experience. Me and our guide laughed pretty hard at her rolling down the hill. She had sand in her boots and jacket pockets for weeks!

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