Catching a sunrise in the Kubuqi dunes
It was a very fine Tuesday morning when a group of African journalists and Chinese officials gathered at 4 am in front of the Seven Star Lake Desert Hotel in the Kubuqi Desert.
We were going on a trip to the desert to see the sun rise.
Curiosity and a love of nature is what made most of us decide to join the early-morning trip, even though we were weary from the previous day's long hours of touring.
Sunsets are popular in Africa and produce picturesque views - but sunrise? It was worth exploring, we reasoned.
Twenty-seven journalists from as many African countries, in China on a 10-month exchange program, were accompanied in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region by three officials from the China Africa Press Centre, the organizers.
For those of us who had opted for the desert trip, the drive was not too long and soon we were at the location where we would wait patiently until the sun was ready to rise from its slumber.
The trek to the best vantage point on the dunes in the Kubuqi Desert was not an easy one, and only the most willing and determined made the ascent.
Every step we took, our feet would sink deep into the fine desert sand and it took some skill and strength to put one foot in front of the other.
Eventually, the party of 13 people was able to get to the apex of the dunes and see, sprawled beneath them, a vast expanse of desert, shrubs and - what a surprise - in the distance, a crater filled with water ... an oasis!
Some balancing skills were needed to avoid sliding down the dunes, and one organizer gave us a scare when he cautioned us not to stray too far or risk sliding down and being swallowed by quicksand.
I hope that wasn't true. Thankfully it wasn't put to the test.
The trip was worth it, however, because not long afterward we saw the rays of the sun appearing gradually from the clouds.
What a majestic sight it was when the sun eventually appeared in all its splendor. A beautiful golden hue engulfed us.
The cameras started clicking and the pictures were breathtaking.
"Wow" became the word of the moment - and what an emotional moment it was for all of us.
The glory of the sun as it rose over the Kubuqi Desert could easily provoke tears.
"Nature is beautiful. Nature is wonderful and we are glad that we cut short our sleep to witness this splendor."
That was the silently spoken sentiment of those who had braved the dunes.
Soon the heat of the sun grew in intensity and we had no choice but to return to our base - the hotel - and get ready for the day's activities.
The experience on the dunes had invigorated us for the day's activities, which included traveling to another city in Inner Mongolia autonomous region - Ordos, in the Kangbashi New District.
We were ready to take on any activity lined up for the day after that awe-inspiring and emotional encounter with nature. The memory will stay with us for a very long time.
By Edmund Smith-Asante