Rebecca was 16 when she visited us from The Netherlands some years ago. Here’s what she wrote of her experience on her return home.
In October 2006 I went to the small village of Khamlia in the south of Morocco. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. We arrived at about midday and what I saw was unreal. The village is made up of about 35 houses which are made of earth and spread out over an area no bigger that 1km squared. There are no house numbers or street names to be found. On the edge of the village lie the seemingly never-ending beautiful dunes. The ground in the village is dusty earth and sand of course. There is also a mosque in the village where the men go every Friday.
We arrived at the end of Ramadan so it was feast in the whole country. It was just like Christmas I thought, the families were all visiting each other. I immediately felt at home. Even though I was only getting to know the people it was like I’d known them forever. Their kindness and generosity is something I will never forget.
When we were there lucky for us it rained. We got to go sleighing on the dunes with boys from the village. It was really amazing. The sleigh was a long sheet of plastic where three of us fitted on. The dunes change colour while the sun moves across the sky, sometimes they’re yellow and other times they’re red or orange. The rain makes dark patterns in the sand dunes. A beautiful sight.
At night the sky was lit up by countless stars. I had never seen so many stars in my life, I thought it was just a picture, but it was real and I saw it. Something else I can never forget.
The music was another amazing part of this whole experience. The gnaoua music that they play comes originally from their ancestors who were brought as slaves to Morocco. The way they play the music with so much feeling and belief really touched me. It’s beautiful to see how strongly they still believe in their culture, tradition and religion especially since in ‘our part of the world’ believes in anything else but oneself is slowly disappearing. They put so much feeling into their playing and singing that there’s no way you couldn’t enjoy the music. I had heard the music on CD before I went but there is no comparison with when you see the people themselves in their traditional white clothes singing their hearts out.
The people there live a simple life but to me it seems like all you should want and need in life. They own as much as they need and they waste nothing. They live closely with their families and friends. The respect, care and love they have for each other is admirable. They all look out for each other and have time for each other. That’s the way it should be, I think. Here, in Europe, no one has time for each other anymore; everyone is stressed and overworked to make as much money to spend on more unnecessary things. When you’re in the dessert and you think of back home you realise that it all doesn’t make sense. You realise how much material things we have that we think we need to make us happy whereas all we really need is friends and family around us.
When I returned to Holland, where I live now, my view had changed on a lot of things. I appreciate things a lot more and I’ve stopped worrying about stupid unimportant things. When something happens I tend to think of the people in Khamlia and what they’d do in that situation. The impact of one week’s holiday in the desert for me is unreal. I think everyone should be given this opportunity to experience what I have.