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"FEW COME TO MOROCCO FOR THE DESERT. It started with a song and it was folly from the start. Sure, I had made it this far. I was in a strange country, in a strange desert, with some strange gear and, though we didn't know it yet, somewhere nearby a king lay crying. Still, there were those camels. The song was a song about Morocco, a song from my childhood: "Something Fine" by Jackson Browne. "Something Fine" is one of those songs you sing in the shower, that just arrives in your head and stays around unasked for years, for a lifetime. One night, about five years prior to my arriva l in Morocco, I had arrived in another strange place, Jackson Browne's Pacific Palisades' backyard. There were other musicians around a small stage and a guitar. Somebody called out for requests so I shouted for "Something Fine" and everyone just looked at each other, not knowing what I was talking about. Everyone, that is, except Jackson. He smi led and picked up the guitar and sa id he might not remember all the words. Then he sang the song in his soft voice under that wide Cal iforn ia sky. I was in Morocco to surf the Sahara. When I arrived there, all I knew of the place was that song and Paul Bowles' book The Sheltering Sky. Even after a few days in that complicated land, the book and the song were all the information I had. The claim to the world's highest sand dunes is always in dispute. Many say the Kalahari, others favor an unknown spot somewhere in Mali. Still others Erg Chebbi- the famous sand dunes of Merzouga, along Morocco's eastern edge, nearly spitting distance from Algeria. We chose Morocco, smack on the myth-shrouded fringe of the legendary Sahara. Most people don't come to Morocco for the desert. They come to buy a fez in Fez or for a taste of Tangier's debauchery or to wander the maze of Marrakech's souk or even to visit the odd ly-placed Rasta surf community nestled on the western coast. Few come to Morocco for the desert. Not the deep desert. Not for the reason we came. There were four of us. Photographer Simon Russell, who had been through this land twenty times and knew its nooks and crannies the way some folks know their own bedroom; Canadian snowboard/mountain bike superstar Brett Tippie and his up-and-coming snowboard superstar baby brother Jake; and myself. We landed in Casablanca and took another flight south into the Sahara, to Ouarzazate, where we also landed safely-a minor miracle in Africa and one that Royal Air Maroc seems to pull off most of the time. Even our luggage arrived-everything, that is, but the snowboards. Ah- the snowboards. The tools of our trade, of our trip- the point after all . So, no, we didn't get to the dunes that day. Instead we went into the Valley of the Kasbahs, into the impossible weave of Art Benhaddou, the most famous kasbah of them all. A kasbah is a fortress, or a section of a North African vi llage, built of mud, with high brown towers and turrets and gnarled streets and the constant bray of tethered goats. When it rains , the walls melt, the town begins to erase itself, reshaped by the elements, by rain and wind, by cold and heat. Every summer the roofs are replaced and every winter, they dissolve again . Art Benhaddou is a famous place made more famous by film. Lawrence af Arabia, Sadam and Gamarrah and Jesus af Nazareth were all shot here. It's a place of a million photos, but like the dunes to come, none of them can ever capture the feel of being there. We wandered the streets, studied the landscape, the surrounding mountains and drank tea, fabulous mint tea, while seated on cushions of pale blue silk. We went back to the airport, sti ll nothing, and

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