I have to say, going into the inauguration of Restival, I was so excited to be a part of its launch and to have my first opportunity to be deep amongst the dunes of the Sahara. To experience how vast and raw this landscape is, where nothing tangible survives over time without care. It’s one of those places that captivates you. It inspires you to see all the possibilities in life and at the same time if you aren’t paying attention, it can bring you to your knees. I had the privilege to experience both on various levels while I was there.
Even with all of the potential Restival offered for self-discovery and a spiritual journey, for me, I knew going into it was a job. As much as I knew I would get something out of it, I had a priority to focus on content needed for Gypset Girl; so, resting and retreat, truthfully, were not at the top of my itinerary. But as it happens, the universe–much like the Sahara – can slap you in the face for not paying more attention. My slap in the face came the day I arrived. I became ill with a horrible cold after giving away all of my cold medicine to my sick travel companion and friends earlier in Marrakech. I was bed ridden my first day in the desert. Consequently, I had no energy to do a lot of the work I had set out to do for Gypset Girl. I had no choice but to relax, and truly disconnect and think.
Leading up to Restival, on the day of our departure from Marrakech, we were off and running at 7 in the morning and so excited for the epic experience ahead. We climbed into 4×4 SUVs, ready to make the 9 hour trek across Morocco to our final destination of Camp Adounia in the Sahara desert.
When we finally arrived for the last leg consisting of an hour-long drive in sometimes deep sand, the sun was setting. Intoxicated by my surroundings, I climbed out of the SUV’s window and took a seat on the door and held on tight to take in the Sahara air and sunset as we floated through the sand.
We arrived in groups, to one of the darkest nights I’ve ever seen. About 100 of us convened around a large campfire where organizer and brain child of Restival, Caroline Jones, welcomed all and gave a quick orientation about what the next few days held in store for us.
The experience at the Restival was sublime. We all did as we wished by taking part in all the activities or none (in my case, the latter for the first day there). The mix of people who came together was a combination of models, artists, photographers, healers, yoginis and creatives in general.
We all bonded instantly, supported by the place and the lovely Berber nomads that took care of our every need graciously.
From the delicious food, to the yoga, writing classes (compliments of Richard Hamilton famed BBC journalist and author of the magical book The Last Storytellers: Tales from the Heart of Morocco), dune surfing and experiencing the Berber culture, it was an adventure like none other. In a positive way, it literally changed the direction of people’s lives forever, including mine.
Some of the highlights of the trip included:
The bar hosted by Samira Kovach, owner of Argan Xtreme Sports
For many of us, this was the nucleus of the Restival Nights. The outdoor bar under the Sahara stars was the place to hang, have a cocktail and unwind before and after dinner. We enjoyed the best fresh juices, courtesy of Native Highs by day. During the evening hours we added a little vodka and ice to Samira’s very own delicious ginger lemonade, making for the best Saharan cocktails!
The after-dinner fireside drum circle
Every night, local Berber nomads played music, sang, and respectfully appreciated our all-out, tribal dancing around the fire. Some of us chose to grab a drum or other percussion instrument and take part in the music making.
The spa experiences
There was a spa section at Camp Adounia with tents set up for everything from manicures to Hammam to massages. The fantastic Mollie Mendoza gave me one of the best massages ever!
The final morning rave organized by Morning Gloryville
We woke on the final day to gentle but unmistakable rave music just before sunrise, courtesy of Morning Gloryville founded by the fantastic Samantha Sibanye Moyo. The music slowly increased into full on, dance tunes that made it impossible to stay in bed. We all rose at our pace to dance without inhibition for a full hour or more, bedazzled and glittered up, while the sun rose.
The Restival was an unforgettable experience, filled with unforgettable people. Unknown faces on that first morning, who have become people who’s friendship has inspired me to look at life more patiently with deep breathes.
For anyone that wants to disconnect from smartphones, Twitter and a fast-paced life for awhile –to actually talk, dance and laugh with friends before google, this event is the place to be.