The Curious Berber

.أخي أخي, لا تخبئ عنّا الأشياء الجيدة, شاركها معنا من فضلك (“Brother! Brother! Don’t hide the good stuff from us! Share it with us please”), a young man whispered, looking towards us. We could barely make out his face for the darkness was only punctuated by the soft glow from the lamps in the dinner tent.

Oblivious to the fact that we were the ones being addressed, we carried on our conversation.

Less than two hours before, we had experienced the most amazing sunset either of us had ever seen. Witnessing the sun cast its golden glow over the Sahara Desert as it hung low in the horizon, we suddenly understood why our driver had been in a mad rush to get through our itinerary for the day in order to deliver us to our desert camp in time. At that moment we only had one sentiment: one of gratitude to be alive on New Year’s Eve to witness the last sunset of the year surrounded by red desert sand that had swallowed kingdoms and given birth to others.

Morocco | Sahara Desert | Sand Dunes | Camping

!يا أخي, أخي, نحن نتحدّث إليك (“Brother! Brother! I’m talking to you!”), the young man entreated. He had been joined by another young man. Their earnest faces had taken on a look of confused curiosity. They could not understand why Omo, who was dressed from head to toe like a Berber, was ignoring them.

Berber Culture | Morocco

. أرِنا أين يوجد البرتقال لو سمحت يا أخي (“Show us where the oranges are please brother”), they begged. By this time they had gained our full attention. We returned their look of incredulity. Suddenly, the truth hit all of us at the same time.

“Ah! Brother! You don’t speak Arabic? We thought you were Berber!” They burst into uncontrollable fits of laughter; shocked by their discovery and probably a little ashamed by the fact that they had been caught trying to source extra treats from the Berbers.

“Brother! We’re so sorry! Where are you from?”

“Nigeria”, Omo replied, humored and secretly proud that he blended in well enough to pull off the second case of mistaken identity in one night. Previously, a British lady had also mistaken Omo for a Berber guide asking if he could help her daughter tie her shesh (traditional turban worn by the nomads).

Berber Culture | Morocco

The young men hugged us and amidst a flurry of high fives and back slapping, we learned that they had travelled from Casablanca to spend their New Year’s Eve in the Sahara Desert. There was clearly something special about the place that attracted even the locals. We traded travel stories until it was time for our group to be seated for dinner.

The Berber hosts laid out a ‘feast’ of vegetables, couscous, chicken and bread, a staple diet we had become accustomed to during our travels through the more remote regions of South Eastern Morocco. Regardless of our newly acquired tastes, we both looked forward to the last stop on our trip where we hoped to spend some quality time exploring the rich Moroccan cuisine on offer in Marrakech.

As we worked our way through dinner, chatting to the Italian and Dutch couples sat on either side of us, we recalled the high points of our journey that day, leading to the Sahara Desert.