The lives and dreams of Saleh and Ahmed, inhabitants of Tighmert, a village located in an oasis in the south of Morocco. Their fortune is linked to the presence of visitors, but the fulfilment of their dreams could undermine the passion that sustains their ambitions.
We arrive very early at the oasis Tighmert and nobody is around. During the Ramadan period, 7 am is not a good time for visits. Here we meet Brahim, the owner of the Maison Nomades (you can watch a small documentary about this place here – in french only), awakened by our unforeseen arrival.
Morning is defined as “the time from sunrise to noon”. Though, in “cultural” terms, morning could be redefined as “the time when most people wake up to conduct daily activities“. During the Ramadan period, 7 am rather corresponds to the middle of the night, according to this second – self produced –
definition. Disturbing and waking up people is not our first choice, but the alternative is to wait for several hours in the direct sunlight. Thanks to his generosity and hospitality, Brahim opens up the doors to his camp site and shows us the room where we will be sleeping.
Brahim’s family still lives in the desert according to nomadic traditions, wandering from place to place in search of water for the camels. He is very proud of his roots and loves to share stories with his guests, which are very rare during the Ramadan period.
Brahim introduces us to Saleh, a nomadic guide. He leads us through the 10 kilometer-long oasis, a true floristic and faunistic paradise. For hours we follow Saleh along the vital water canals used to bring water from the springs to the villages. The Sun beats down and Saleh, who has lost his youth but not its spirit, respects Ramadan: he does not drink water. Dehydrated but experienced, he moves steadily with a slow but incessant pace. His stature is small, but he is strong. His appearance is more sub-Saharian than that of a Berber or of a Moroccan. He tells us that his family has origins in Mali, from where his descendants once walked the trading route to Guelmim‘s Morocco without returning.
After a small break in the shade of a tree, he tells us the story of Tighmert, a village composed of 700 families, a few little mosques, two schools, a lot of silence, palms and fruits. Tighmert is a mosaic composition of contrasting images: happy kids, crumbling walls, plastic waste and goats. The location is idyllic, dusty and beautiful, poor but magnificent.
It is now time for a visit of the “Ecological garden of Ahmed” (French: Jardin écologique d’Ahmed). Ahmed has a terrific small garden, where he meticulously grows local and imported plants, fruits and vegetables. The variety is unimaginable considering the very small size of his green and peaceful piece of land. In this little paradise he produces, among other things, tomatoes and mint, figs and Egyptian medical plants. He carefully explains to us the properties of his plants, narrating his successes and failures. He offers us Moroccan tea, with its typical sweet and refreshing flavour, this time enriched with freshly gathered mint and by a (big) taste of passion. He also has a very good sense for design: he builds fine pots out of tree trunks, as well as beautiful seats for his little in divenire bar. Quite instantaneously we become emotionally transfixed by his love and great passion, a praise of simplicity and nature.
After serving us tea, Ahmed goes back to work, fearing that a few more seconds could impact the health of his vegetation: his care is limitless and his eyes shine when he speaks.
“The ecological garden of Ahmed” will possibly become a niche of wellness, where Ahmed will serve fresh Moroccan dishes and beverages. To pursue his dream of becoming a small entrepreneur he needs an increased flow of tourists, both Moroccan and international. This may seem hard, bigger than the small reality of Ahmed; but he puts trust in himself and in our modern – well connected – society. He has – additionally – all the qualities to succeed: passion, ideas and a concrete plan.
We promise to do our little part, sharing his story.
The oasis Tighmert offered us a small, true and emotional experience, a tile in a mosaic, a small picture enclosed in a bigger, less decipherable one. Ahmed’s unique reality is – after all – the incompleteness of his work, his aspiration, the movement itself. The fulfilment of his dreams would also result in a loss of uncontaminated truth, beauty and simplicity and – eventually – in the loss of Ahmed’s dream itself.