Visiting the Sahara*

Last weekend we all packed a bag, piled into the bus and drove 4.5 hours to the desert (plus a couple of pit stops for juice and a bathroom). At a gas station just on the edge of where the desert began we switched into four-wheeled vehicles and went off through the dunes, past some wild camels and up to a circle of square cube huts and rugs in the sand. Truly a retreat and my mind was ready for it because of all the Arabic letters and words swarming loudly inside it. We arrived just before sunset and after we grabbed our keys and dropped our bags on our beds, we booked it up a giant dune to watch the sunset.

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Many of us heaved and breathed deeply when we reached the top of the red sand mountain. On the other side was nothing but cream pie meringue waves of sand. The wind whipped across my cheeks carrying grains of sugar sand across my cheeks and nose. Directly west the sun had left winking behind rocky mountains and to the east the moon was confident on the dusk screen of sky. It was a full moon feature night.

I posed for pictures then pocketed my phone and ran my palms against the sand. There was not a sound other than the pull of the wind through my ears. Eerie because not much lives in the desert (although, we were warned of snakes and scorpions before coming). The only movement were the streams of sand winding around my ankles. My friend Ben posted on his Instagram the other day that the experience of the desert helped him understand why Jesus would retreat to the wilderness to spend time with the father. I cannot agree more.

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Jessica and I rolled down a hill on our sides and made sand angels that didn’t last more than two minutes before the next wave of sand rolled over them. Truly the dunes looked like waves yet felt like heavy dust. Sand weighed down the bottoms of my pants and spilled out of my pockets. That night, I emptied my boots into two large anthills outside of my concrete room. Every freckle on my face had doubled by sticky sand powder. The desert wasn’t going to let me leave without a piece of her with me. I keep finding twinkly red sand stuck to my clothes.

Later that night after a full meal of camel kabobs, lentils, rice and chicken, and fruit and Karak tea for dessert, we all gathered around a bonfire. Hefty jeeps charged up the side of the dunes and raced down noisily next to our camp. I imagined they were caravans of camels instead, carrying silk and spices and silver to the next city. We chattered on and on, and I stayed up way too late because of it. But, when I got back to my room, I smelled like earth and still felt windy ghosts in my hair and through my fingertips. I went straight to bed happy. So, so happy to be there.

*Sahara is Arabic for desert

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Alley LoPrete

Class of 2019 Hometown: Indianapolis, IN Major(s): Sociology & Religion, Peace Studies Minor

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