Sometimes I feel panic of loneliness, a deep fear that makes me feel every moment as a new challenge. It is in that pleasant fear that I find clarity and a deep reflection is born that takes me to distant memories. There is the voyage of Ulysses and his return to Ithaca; Robinson Crusoe in the interior of an island, a shipwrecked survivor, Captain Ahab chasing Moby Dick in the middle of icy oceans and hurricane winds.
It is the interior of each page and memory that makes me understand the journey of the Tuareg in the Tenere desert. A star, a light guides them towards the salt flats of Fachi. Another journey to the limits of human life is the one made by the Inuit from Siberia to Alaska behind the caribou.
All these journeys are recreated inside me when I find solitude and feel the remoteness of the city of my childhood. It is that small town of Dakhla on the Ria de Oro, a town that watches the sand wind disappear in the small village of Argub. It is the solitude of each moment that makes me relive the nostalgia of the past, in that shipwreck that has taken me to many places without ever forgetting those streets. Those white walls where the sun reflects.
My father’s house, my grandfather’s house are still surrounded by the smell of the sea. That fish stew that my mother used to prepare and then take me to school along a long and wide street. That is where my journey began when I learnt my first letters, little poems written on a wooden board.
Those verses were dedicated to my grandfather, the ones taught to me by my first teacher, the man in the blue tunic and black turban.
Those distant verses said in hasania:
يـا بابا فيك لمرو كيف حسنـ
O Baba, you are haughty and generous,
like Ahmed Baba.
When returning from that traditional school where many children learnt their first letters, I always remembered the verses dedicated to my grandfather. Once on a journey through the land of white dunes and black mountains, after having lost the city of my childhood. I arrived at a tent in Tiris and we were welcomed by a man and a woman who had known my grandfather in the small village of Auserd.
After drinking the three traditional Saharan teas and tasting goat’s milk mixed with water and sugar, the ninety-year-old man looked me in the face and said:
̶ Your voice reminds me of someone, the look, that way you speak.
I looked at him carefully and said:
̶ I am from the southern part of Western Sahara, from the Rio de Oro area.
Then I told him my name, my parents’ and grandparents’ names. The old man, who was very old, burst into tears and hugged me several times.
Then he said in tears.
̶ Your grandfather was a generous man, full of kindness.
When I heard those words, I remembered the first verses I learnt in Hasania dedicated to my grandfather Baba Uld Hasena. I went out alone for a walk accompanied by the solitude of the Tiris dunes, I looked to the west in despair. I wanted to go back to the school where I learnt those stanzas.
It is this solitude that brings back these memories and builds the journeys inside me. A loneliness full of fear and wrapped in hope.