by Victoria and Lucas Ahlén

(this article will be published in Swedish in En Sueco in June 2016).

In March I traveled with my son Lucas, 11 years, on an adventure with a goal to help the children in the desert in Sahara close to Zagora, southern Morocco. A journey where I wanted to show and tell Lucas about the life I have gotten to know in Morocco up close. It would also be a journey to do practical entrepreneurship with the utmost challenge that during a few days find a way forward for and with the people we had gotten to know as family, people who showed me my roots and people with the greatest hearts.

Our eco guide Brahim and Nomad Youssef was with us on this do-good-mission and Brahim shares his thoughts about Tanmirt:

“The true meaning of Tanmirt in Berber is thank you’. But for us it means ‘for me and my team’. We use the word tanmirt to describe the quiet desert dunes and plates, the true Sahara that gives you the true image of Sahara.”

Lucas writes:
Morocco is an amazing country. Everyone is so friendly and the children are great soccer players.
The desert is one of the most amazing places in Morocco where there is not only sand everywhere. Most of Sahara is rocks and ordinary soil. The nomads that live in the desert are really friendly. All nomad families have at least 3-4 camels, because they do not have horses, pigs… They use their camels for everything, like we use cars.

(In Zagora there are only dromedaries. All nomads refer to them as camels and so do we.)

Joakim, my husband and I, traveled here a few magical days during Christmas 2015. Alone on a journey without the children to find peace and quiet. We met a world we both felt apart of. I found home there in the midst of the blowing sand, in the midst of a gorgeous sunset by the infinity ocean, by the dunes.

nomad children tanmirt sahara morocco photo joakim ahlen vilostrada

Day 2 on our eco tour this Christmas, we met Mustafa and Aicha, approx. 4 years. Two happy nomad children who live life where it is barren but oh so beautiful. They are a part of tribe of 300 nomads who live in this area. They do not attend school, because that would be several days walk away. It is not a tradition to know how to read, write and count. Their mother and grandmother are with them at the camp as well as the new born goat kids that curiously come up to us to say hi. The men are out with the camels and the goats and will return by sundown fully loaded with firewood for the evening. Here in Sahara, life happens just like thousand years ago.

When Lucas and I now return to the their nomad camp, with simple, windblown tents that are repaired with things they had leftover (old clothes), our Jeep is fully  loaded with shoes, clothes, school material, toys and Lucas’ own purchased soccer balls. We have tried to divide what we have with us into bags.

Aicha is the first to curiously approach us. We can immediately see that she has no shoes on her feet. We look in the bags to try find some that can fit her tiny feet. You can probably imagine the infinite joy when we find a pair that are a tiny bit too big to give to her.  We then find a pair that fits perfectly and do not have the heart to retract the other pair. We meet two smiling eyes on a little girl with two new pairs of shoes to wear on the rugged desert terrain that she calls home. Her brother Mustafa is also happy and he hugs his new soft toy. Grandma Fadma exclaims in a blessing for all good fortune for us, our family and all friends who helped: “May God give you all you need and wish for.”

She is moved, I am moved. A tear rolls down my cheek under my sunglasses and I softly touch her hand. We are a apart of the same family.

victoria ahlen fadma nomad tanmirt common ground vilostrada

Lucas writes:
They look like they had it cozy but not fully happy. I hope they were a little happier when they got shoes, soccer balls etc. I hope they can use that to civilize themselves. For example the animals, they need a good cleaning every once in a while, they can find branches to build more things around them.
Happiness does not have to be anything expensive. It is enough with something simple to make people happy.

The last day, we visit the Nomad school, ca 100 km far out in the desert. Today 16 children attend there. This is a school that moves with the nomads. Two teachers volunteer here and alternate during the year. Rachid Harmach, a master’s student, and I talk and he tells me that two children have the opportunity to continue to secondary school in M’hamid, a smaller village 3 hrs away by motorbike. There is a boarding school that is open for all who have the possibility to attend without pay. During my conversation Lucas has collected one of the soccer balls, he bought and saved for the school, and is all ready really sweaty on the soccer court with most of the other nomad children. The court is lined with neatly-laid stones to demarcate. We brought shoes for almost all and we receive happy smiles in return, just like at any other schoolyard around the globe.

The school tents have big holes and the sun is hot. When rain falls here, usually it comes in abundance threatening to destroy the possibility for school and the few books they have access to. Lucas, Brahim, Youssef and I exchange looks and make a silent vow to find a solution.

Soccer creates common ground wherever we have traveled with Lucas the last week. Lucas writes:

“The nomads love to play soccer too. When we stayed at our second camp, where we slept, I plays soccer with one of the nomads. I was Real Madrid an he was Real Nomad.”

team real nomad tanmirt ahlen vilostrada brahim elaabdouli common ground
To travel with Lucas alone, only him and me, for more than 10 days is one of my most brilliant ideas I have seen through. Pure joy to hang out with him and share ordinary days. I discovered Morocco again through his eyes. Lucas turns to me as we roll back to asfalt road from desert tracks and says:

”This has been the greatest journey because I got to stay up late and be really dirty. I will not take a shower in Zagora”.

You can read more about our desert project with and for the nomads ”Common Ground Tanmirt” on Vilostrada’s web: We focus on getting a positive circle of entrepreneurship, education and storytelling in the desert with and for the nomads.

May 13 – June 10 you can see many of Vilostrada’s photos at a photographic exhibit at Etual, Calle Acuario 9. Local 2, Torre del Mar.

Live to Love the Road.