Our vehicles stopped outside of what appeared to be a crumbling concrete castle once we entered the desert’s deepest recesses. Inside, a group of men referred to as Berbers performed some traditional dancing: a pre-Arab culture that hasn’t been conquered and lives in North Africa and parts of West Africa. They are known as the “free people” for good reason. As the two cultures merged in a jubilant, if slightly clumsy, dance, they encouraged us to join them, clad in white suits and shaking their instruments.

We were then shown to a table covered in bright yellow food, full of tagines and traditional sweet snacks. Some people tried their hand at drumming, while others took in the tranquility of the sandy area around them. I would typically rush to share this scene with my Instagram followers, but the fact that we were far away and unaffected by the social media I relied so heavily on provided me with comfort.

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