People of the Cave

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11 May 2014, Sunday

Little did I expect, this drive off the beaten path, would open my heart and eyes to learn a valuable lesson in life. My ultimate intention this time. It was a rocky ride into villages made of clay and then into an empty land.

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Outside the cave home, Said immediately carried a cuddly little lamb.He immediately held out, signalling me to carry the lamb.  Of course, I declined and was laughed at.

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We were invited into the Berber nomad cave home. Said introduced us to the family – Aisyah and her 2 children, Abdullah and Tarbuk (I think). Raoul, Mercedes and Hassan joined us as well.

Here’s their kitchen.
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Their living room, bedroom and dining area.

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Aisyah served us hot mint tea and had a second helping. Said was our translator when I had questions from Aisyah as they could only speak berber Arabic.


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Said shared with us a story of a 72-year old Berber nomad. When asked why he didn’t want to stay in a big house in the city, he replied that everyone will leave this earth and return to Him, regardless of his status.

I teared in my heart. A sudden gush of insaf or repentance.  It would be too embarrassing to cry in front of everyone.  How often do we drown in the world of materialism and place priorities on things that are of least importance. We forget that we are travellers in this passing journey. Our scale of needs and wants tilts to the dunya.

Through Said, I was told that they do not go to school, they can’t read or write. He watched a documentary before which tells of how teachers from the city, gave up teaching the nomads as they were not used to the lifestyle.

They lead a simple life in the cave. They prefer it to the desert where heat can be unbearable. Here, they have access to the well which is about 4km away and a nearby market. Winter could be pretty harsh for them as the cave’s entrance would be covered with snow. Aisyah said she loves the peace and quiet, but would love some noise just like today with us coming over to her place. I told her I prefer otherwise.

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I went out for a while with Abdullah and his sister giggling at my antics – grabbing my bag and running away from the lambs.

nomad9Back in the cave, I signalled to Tarbuk to sit next to me. I showed her the shots I took of her, and she gave the brightest smile.

Raoul shared some stories of historical Spain, with Said translating it to me Surprisingly, I could pick up some words. At one point, Hassan yawned. Mercedes spanked him jokingly like a mother would. Funny bunch of people!

Hassan signalled that it was time to go. Frankly, I didn’t want to leave. I could stay all day with the family listening to their stories and even Raoul’s stories. Nihla and I felt bad for not bringing anything for them. So we gave the oat biscuits to the children.

Their smiles – sweet, innocent and priceless. I will never forget, ever. An expression of innocent love and gratitude.

I really wanted badly to hug them but I wasn’t sure if it’s appropriate.  Not to comfort them but comfort myself. As we were leaving , a man from a neighbouring village came to by to give some clothes to the family. How thoughtful. And I brought nothing.

As we walked to the car, the lambs that took shade by the car, left…as though they understood we were leaving.

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I told Said “Hazihi tajriyyah ro’iyan” (this is a wonderful experience). A humble one in fact. It’s life for the nomads. We find it tough but they love it. I begged Said to bring me back to this family,the next time I am back in Maroc, inshaAllah.

When we were driving out through villages, kids waved excitedly at us. An adorable little boy stopped us and asked Said for “stylo” (I think). Said searched and passed him a pen and drove away.  Another reminder of selfless giving and letting go. Back in my office, I will frustratingly search high and low for my favourite pen.

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Allah put me in a faraway land and taught me to be grateful and reminded me that my problems are small. It took me less than half an hour but miles away from home, to understand the true meaning of syukur. A lesson that I hope I will never forget.

“Leaving the people and places you love, is a reminder of the impermanence of this life. And the permanence of the next.” – Yasmin Mogahed

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