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LEARNING TO BECOME A LOCAL IN THE SAHARA

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The meeting with Mr Abdelkarim, the president of the Division of the Interior Affairs at the local Government of Boujdour Province “Alaamala, ”was productive, but I still had a great deal to learn and understand about Saharawi culture before hosting community meetings.

Boujdour Province is divided into four communes: Boujdour municipality (the urban area or city of Boujdour),and three rural communes: Elmassid, Jrifrifia and  Galtat Zammour. Boujdour’s economy depends mainly on fishing (especially octopus, locally called “Azaiz,” sardines and “pajo”), herding (especially goats, camels and sheep) and handicrafts. Saharawi tribes practice herding as way of their life and have a history of making handicrafts, such as carpets, tents, clothing, leather crafts and drafting copper and silver), but 95% of the fishermen are “Dakhiliin” (adj of person coming from “Dakhil,” the north of Morocco) practicing only the traditional fishing (ie using small boats “flukat”, and not the coastal fishing or fishing in the depths of seas). Some Saharawi tribes that practice fishing belong to the lower class, for example the tribe of  “Elffikat” and “Elmnasser”, and even in Saharawi peoples’ view, they consider the fishing tribes as uncourageous and poor. Some tribes are very skilled in herding and raising animals. The craftsmen and the tribes that own herds are considered upper class. The tribes that own herds are well-known throughout Boujdour Province. They’re called “Oulad Tidrarin”, “Adda” and “Yara”. The best-known tribe for craft making is called “Elaaroussi.”

 

It is very rare to meet a tourist walking the streets of Boujdour. There are only a handful of hotels in the city, none of which have any ratings. Unlike many places in Morocco, tourism is not a vital sector of Boujdour’s economy. Most of the development projects are supported by Agence du Sud, INDH, Boujdour Province, Wilayat Boujdour- Layounne- Saqia and Al Hamra. Ninety five percent of the local development projects submitted by local cooperatives and associations are funded by either INDH or Agence du Sud. However there is no monitoring of projects, and thus a lot of money is squandered without implementation of projects.

  

Before coming to the Sahara, I imaged it as a land of camels and sand. This was the idea  I had heard as a pupil in school. I remembered the line: “a camel is a ship of the desert,” and this image of a camel moving on the Sahara struggling the golden waves of sand leaving behind its trails is the same thing the ship does when sailing and challengind the white waves of  blue seas and oceans. This image is far from the reality. Instead, in Boujdour, one must either think of eating sea food or trying out the camel’s meat. I thought of tasting the camel’s meat. In the afternoon, I went out to purchase it. I brought little ground camel meat, 1kg costs 70 MAD. While I was cooking it, a different smell came out of its steam. It wasn’t beef or sheep meat, It’s very hot; when I ate it, I felt very warm and perspired. After a half an hour, I feel my stomach squeezing; maybe because it is not used to digest such food.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

I was very sick this day. I felt lonely; I missed my family, my husband Abdou and home a lot!

Friday, November 23, 2012

I learned from my experience of working with HAF that the sustainability of development projects is achieved when these project are totally the result of the local community’s interest, planning, and design.  The local community here in Boujdour is a heterogeneous community consisting of two big communities: Saharawi community with its tribes, culture, language, style of life and the immigrant community which can be divided again into many other smaller communities that come from different parts of Morocco. I was very interested to learn more about Saharawi culture; because it is the best way through which I can understand the Saharawi community.

Thus, I decided to be in touch with Hayat, the only Saharawi lady I know well. She is from Assa Zag, Samara Province. She was a colleague of my husband’s while working in literacy classes. She is working now in Marrakech and she visited her tribe from time to time. We connected via Facebook. We discussed some cultural issues and comparisons regarding traditions, food and family. In the earlier times the Saharawi men couldn’t marry immigrant women. Now, the Saharawi community has changed; they have integrated to some extent with immigrant community: talk, work, social and religious ceremonies, as well as relationships either friendship, neighborly, business or marriage. Besides, Saharawi people can work in “the North of Morocco” and the People from the North can work in the South without any problem. Hayat gave an example of her case being Saharawi and working in Marrakech and mine as being from Marrakech and working in Boujdour! I asked her some questions about wedding parties, some Saharawi dishes and funerals and the Saharawi’s view towards woman. Miss Hayat was very generous and helpful to answer all my questions during our conversation.

My first question- the usual questions asked by women around the world – was about Saharawi wedding parties and its relationship to wedding festivities in northern Morocco. I asked if a bride is taken over “Alaammaria” (a kind of covered or uncovered seat for carrying a Moroccan bride when saying hello to the attendees and showing off her different dresses); and if the bride wears a crown and changes her dresses. Hayat answered that the Saharawi wedding party is completely different; the bridegroom brings to a bride a box of a lot of different items of clothes about 40, 50 or more units from each item example: “Blaaghi” (slippers), “Al bkhour” (incense) , perfumes, soaps;  and the “Naaga” (female camel) and other cloths of high quality. Some tribes try to determine the number of items the bridegroom has to bring to the bride directly with the bridegroom. For other tribes, they decide the number taking into consideration the financial capacity of the bridegroom. The bride, in her turn, brings to her husband’s house “Errahiil” (furniture and vessels for the house). Each tribe determines “Almaher/ Assadaq” (the amount of money that a bridegroom has to offer to a bride) which can be 5000 MAD, 10.000 MAD or more.

During the wedding party day, the bride wears a black “mlahfa” with a white scarf on her head. The bridegroom is wearing “Derraa Bida” a large tall embroidered white clothes for men and sitting with a bride on “Alkousha”(a very well-decorated chair) enjoying the Saharawi “Guitar”( a Sahraoui group singing Hassanian songs) wit all the guests under a well-decorated “Alkhaima” (a large tent). The wedding party can last for 3 days or more; the first day for men, the second for women and the third for youth (girls and boys).They make the third day particularly for youth as a chance to create new marriage relationships between girls and boys. In the bride’s first morning in her husband’s house, the bride’s mother brings to her a special dish named “Al Gassaa” (a large dish made of wood or pottery containing “dshisha and dhan” ( a well cooked, partly ground barley little bit covered with melt butter of goats or any kind of butter), this dish for congratulating the couple. Hayat and I could have continued our conversation for a long time, but I was tired and preferred to talk more the following day.

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