We’ve had enough of touristic places, so we decide to give the Desert in M’hamid a miss and turn northwards instead. We give Brahim a ring (the one we gave a lift to with a broken water pump, a few chapters ago) and arrange to meet up in his town that afternoon.
We breeze through Zagora, trying not to get trapped by hawkers. It’s not so easy, because we have to stop for fuel. We are so busy fending off offers for van repairs and camp sites that we don’t notice the pump attendant overfilling our tank. Suddenly there’s a big puddle underneath Emma! Frank takes handfuls of sand out of a box by the side of the pump, much to the dismay of the attendant who doesn’t want to have to sweep it up later, but we don’t want to run the danger of having greasy tyres .
Just North of Zagora, we leave the new road and turn right across the river following the old road instead. After a while we realise we turned off too early, but never mind, the road ambles through a number of villages. When we think we are lost, we ask for Brahim’s Village. We draw a few blank faces as we keep mispronouncing it, but generally people just keep waving us on northwards. It is Friday late afternoon and everyone is out on the road, Children are playing football, groups of women are sitting and chatting, enjoying the last bit of shunshine, men are lying in the typical Moroccan reclining posture just outside the Mosque, waiting for their turn with the local barber who squats with his back against the wall, shaving one beard or head after the other.
We arrive with German punctuality in Ouled Ayoub, Brahim’s village. He jumps up to greet us when we rumble in sight and leads us up some narrow stony roads to his home, a large compound with a number of houses connected by courtyards. The last courtyard is a farm yard where sheep, goats, a donkey and a number of rabbits all share the same space. It is well kept, with fresh straw and hay spread out. The animals seem happy and well fed.
We have noticed that in places where there is a well functioning Oasis, the people and animals seem to be more relaxed, happier and generally look like they don’t go hungry.
Brahim suggests that his oldest and his youngest son take us on a walk through the oasis, so we take off to catch the fading daylight. It is a balmy evening and we can hear the crickets chirping. We walk underneath palm trees and past fields of wheat and beans, sometimes interplanted. We are shown an old Kasbah that was destroyed by a flood about a decade ago.
Brahim’s older son has finished his studies to be an Arabic teacher, but there he hasn’t been assigned a school yet and he’s at a loss as to what to do next. Considering how many schools there are, it seems strange that there aren’t enough teaching posts.
Brahim’s family is a large, extended family. There are about 20 people living in the compound. When we have dinner, the women share the food too and there is much laughter and warmth. The whole house feels like it is filled with love. More people join throughout the evening. A cousin of Brahim’s, a young, open-faced woman in the last year of school, tells us she wants to study law, like her older brother. She smiles a lot, is full of energy, and seems to have a sharp mind. It looks like she knows her worth, she knows what she wants and is going for it.
Besides sharing laughter and stories, we exchange many things – food (we bring marmalade and pickled cherries, they offer us couscous and tea), we make birds and boats for the children and leave them with some drawing pads and pens. The little boy starts drawing straight away. We also get to buy some organic dates for a good price from a neighbour, arranged by Brahim. After a delicious breakfast next morning (which the women get up at 6am to prepare!), we bid an emotional good-bye. Just as I climb into Emma, Brahim turns to me and asks you won’t forget me, will you?
I don’t think we will.
For a few more photos, including a large toad we found on our stroll, click here
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