Visiting Demnate, to see some of Rachid’s family we talked about the significance of family history and how it played out in the present. We discussed the importance of heritage and history and the impact of change. Rachid showed his generosity in allowing me to write his story . In putting Rachid’s words onto paper in an English format, I hope I have done justice and captured the essence of his story……..
In the heart of the southern High Atlas , in the Tadia-Azilal region, lies the small village of Tizi.
This is where my living story began, but in truth the story of my heart and the blood that flows in my veins began a long time ago when my ancestors , the Ait Izdig n Ait Yaflman, a branch of the Ait Atta tribe roamed free in the Jbel Saghro. Expanding to the north then south, to the Sahara and Draa valley and beyond, centuries before Islam arrived in Morocco.
My ancestors were proud and fiercely independent, from them I learned the moods of the mountains and desert. I know the coming weather before it is felt, where to find the oases and which paths to follow. I know to walk gently on these paths that carry the imprint of the footsteps of my grandfathers and those before them, from the beginning of time for the Ait Atta. This is the knowledge that I was born with, like the generations before me. I am the sum of my history.
I am Amazigh and my language is Tamazight.
My grandfathers were nomads, as their fathers before them and back beyond the possibility of any recall. A nomads life is hard . Freedom to roam has its price and my grandfathers would be on a continual search for food and water for the sheep and goats. My father, born at a time of great change, saw the difficulty in continuing this life if his children were to adapt to the 20th Century. This is why I was born in the small village of Tizi. My father wanted to give us the best chance to experience a settled life. One of education and employment. A different learning. Words and numbers, geography, history. Not just of Morocco. but the world. He saw that we would need more than the knowledge of our ancestors.
But Tizi had its limitations. Access to the village was a mule track and later a piste. Schooling was sporadic, snow made the track impassable in winter and the teacher would not come. But for a small boy this did not matter. My backyard was the looming massifs of the High Atlas. I could roam and explore to my hearts content.
When I was about six years old my father made a decision to move his family to the town of Azilal. His children would need consistent schooling. Even though my sisters were younger, one just a baby, it was important for him to have his family settled near a larger school. He would be working away and he wanted to rest easy about our future. So I came to Azilal, a city now. but then a small town.
As a child there were still places to explore, trees to climb and waterfalls to swim under. And I could always see the mountains.
My schooling completed , the mountains were calling me . I worked as much as possible, as a muleteer, cameleer and cook but I really wanted to be a professional guide so I attended the Centre de Formation Aux Metiers de Montagne to gain my certificate. I passed my examinations and achieved my certificate, then my life took another turn. My father became very sick and passed away, there was now more urgency to work and support my mother and siblings.
For more than 10 years I have worked as a guide. In the mountains and the desert. I cannot recall how many times I have climbed Toubkal. But I love to climb mountains and many times I have climbed just for the sheer joy of it. The Sahara is the other part of me. To sit quietly on the dunes of the desert and listen to the ancient voices on the wind brings me a sense of great peace. To walk alone on the high dunes of shifting sand is not to be lonely. I am in the footsteps of my forebears. To share mint tea with one of the few nomad families left is to share a history.
It is true that with every year that passes so too are there less nomads, not just in the Jbel Saghro and Sahara, but in all of southern Morocco. Times have changed. For the children the future is uncertain and without adequate education their potential is lost. So they lose the life they know and face an uncertain future.
My dream is that, through Nomad Journeys, I can in a small way help these families stay together and support the education of the children Many nomads now look for alternate work whilst their wife and children tend to the flocks By employing local people as muleteers and cooks and paying a good wage , these people will have a means to make their future a better and more certain one. Especially for the children.
Maybe in another 10 years there will be no nomads roaming the Sahara and High Atlas. No longer will their footsteps press lightly on this earth. Their voices will be whispers in the wind. Their living story gone. Only in the heart of the children will the history be held . For them I want to help ensure that their story takes a prosperous and happy path
My name Is Rachid, I am Amazigh, Nomad , Mountain and Desert Guide. It is a privilege to be your guide and share my world with you