We all had unique and different childhood, we were given different opportunities and chances, some of us could enjoy happy and easy times, others bit more difficult ones, but as kids we do not really care about the seriousness of adult life. As kids we still know how to enjoy the small things and moments. And these happy enjoyable memories we do carry with us for the rest of our life.
I’m coming from a Nomad family and I spent my yearly years in the Sahara desert. No, no need to get horrified! Living in Sahara was not as bad as many of you may think. I know Sahara may evoke no water, no food, very hot weather and unbearable heat, hot days and cold nights, many of you probably imagine it as a hell on earth. But Sahara I remember as a kid was different, it was unique and provided us with many things which you can’t find anywhere else. I grew up around the desert village called Mhamid Elghizlan in Erg Chigaga area, which that time was surrounded, of course, by the sand dunes but also a huge green land, there was a big river and a lake and because of water, there were lots of animals too. We had water, food and land to grow crops. We lived simple life but we had all basic things we needed.
A nomad child playing with his bicycle on the sand dunes
As a child growing up in Sahara you are a part of not only your close family but a part of the tribe of hundreds of people and they all know you. If not directly you, they know your father, mother or grandfather, they know to which part of the tribe you belong to. There is a strong sense of belonging and being part of something big, something where you feel secure.
Kids are important part of the society, they play important role in the Nomad community. We enjoyed our childhood as any other children do, we played our games, were naughty, but at the same time, from the early age we all were given certain responsibilities.
Kids main task was to look after animals. For us boys it was camels. This was a big task, because camel is not just an animal for Nomads, it's a nomad’s best friend and a vital part of Nomad’s day to day life. We say that camels have feelings, they can recognize good and bad people, they feel the danger and they do protect and risk their lives for people who are looking after them.
Few hours old babe camel near Chigaga desert
Therefore, it’s a big thing for a Nomad boy to be given his first baby camel to look after. You are officially given a role in the community and you should be respected by others, you feel important and kind of grown up. .
I still remember my first baby camel, his name was Lhaimar due to his red color ( Lhaimar mean the red) . Lhaimar was really crazy and had so much energy , wanted to play all day long until we fell asleep side by side. And those were games we played! The best one was the camel race in the dunes, which we organized with other boys. I probably don't have to tell you that this game in particular wasn’t appreciated at all by our parents.
In general though, we were good to our camels, already at that early age we felt the responsibility given to us and we took it seriously. Nomad’s life is closely linked and connected with camels and we get to know it from our early childhood years. Our camels were everything to us, the best friend, soures of food, Milk, and transportation.
People often ask if nomads eat camels. Well, yes, we do eat camels, but nomads never eat their own camels. You can’t kill a friend of the family. That’s why we sell our camels, which is never a happy thing to do and we buy another camel to feed the family.
I still remember how sad I was when I was told it’s time to sell Lhaimar. But I learnt it’s a part of Nomad’s life circle.
The only source of water for nomads before Erg chigaga
That’s how I remember my childhood Nomad’s years, living close to the nature and our animals, moving from one place to another ( a bit of explanation why you moved ) to find food and water for us and our animals, we can stay in a place as long as there is water and enoght food for all of us even if that was 10 years long
Sahara I remember as a kid doesn’t exist anymore around Mhamid. The river and lake dried, green land disappeared , animals left , Nomads stopped moving from one place to another because of the Dam that was built in Oauzazate and also because of the climate change that so many people don’t care about, its affecting us a lot here in the Sahara Desert . Although we stopped living as Nomads, we are still Nomads deep inside in our soul. Now we are living in the houses, in small villages or even big cities with all modern convenience.
The Dry Iriki lake near Chigaga Dunes
I myself moved to crazy jungle of Marrakesh city. I travel a lot around Morocco and I had a chance to visit several European countries. Yet, I still love to go back to the desert. It’s always a special moment, when I get there and I feel the freedom and happiness and overwhelming beauty of it. Believe me, one of the most spectacular sunsets and sunrises you can watch in the world is from the top of Sahara dunes and let alone the sky full of stars on cloudless nights.
I consider myself lucky, as going back to the desert is part of my job, I feel proud I can introduce Nomad’s land to curious people from around the world.
Sahara has changed, but still it has plenty to offer, it’s a very unique place, with unique people and if you visit it will be one in a life time and unforgettable experience.