The best of our week on the African continent was, undoubtedly, the life in the Saharawi camps. We were welcomed by wonderful families, and allowed to be part of their life and culture. We were treated like kings. And all this with a naturalness and a warmth that touched me deeply.
Life in the Saharawi camps is very relaxed and at the same time very safe. This unfair situation makes the villages in which they live a prison, nobody can leave and nobody can go in and the possibilities inside are very limited. Once you understand and accept these limitations, it possible to be happy yet. I still have trouble assimilating how this people can live happily in such a reality.
Homes are very humble. One or two small constructions of adobe, the typical haima (bedouin tent) with which the Saharans used to live in a nomadic way, a kitchen with the very basic and a more basic bathroom. The little houses, however simple, are very comfortable, the floor covered with carpets and mats where you can sit and lie down comfortably. The kitchen has just enough to make the cooking possible. And the bathroom is made up of big bucket with water and a hole in the floor for your physical needs. At the time of showering you have to do it consciously, since the amount of water we have is very limited. And in the center of the home the most important stay: the haima.
Life in the the Saharawi camps is mainly lived in the haima. Here we eat, sleep, talk, drink tea, welcome guests, have tea, celebrate and have tea again. The tea ritual is something important for the Saharawis, I will talk about it in another article. We will eat with the food at the center of the table and each one of us will serve what he or she wants. They eat with their hands and the skill with which they do it astonishes me. The food is delicious, we will have the opportunity to eat from camel meat and milk, to pizza! amazing. In these tents we will live for hours and hours between conversations and tea. Everyone is welcome and welcomed at any time and will be invited to sit, to stay and, again, to have tea. You may ask, these people drink tea all day long! You are right.
The camps melt under the scorching Sun and merge with the sand of the desert becoming a part of it. Time stops at this place. The adobe houses are merged with this brown infinity that extends as far as the eye can see, till the horizon and beyond it. Boys and girls running and playing and desiring to receive sweets, goats everywhere feeding on anything that looks, or not, as something edible. Deserted streets under the intense heat of the desert.
At night we will gather to celebrate. I cannot believe my eyes how happy these people are. Of course there is no way to compare the happiness that two people feel, I know, but these people seem to be much happier than I am. Moreover, I dare say that they are happier than the Spanish average. Here they do not lament their hardships, yet they celebrate that they are alive. Dancing just for fun, without being drunk, in the middle of a haima and with a Saharawi family watching is something totally new for me. And it’s amazing!
In addition, we will be very lucky and misfortunate to enjoy a bright and lucid Moon in the sky. Lucky because it will be the light that enlightens us in the darkness of the night and dye all of a beautiful silver color. Misfortunate because its light will cover a sky full of stars. We are in the middle of nowhere, there is no light pollution so it is a unique occasion to see the stars like never before.
Luckily, on the last night of our trip we will be taken to a wonderful place. Mounted in the back of a truck we will cross the desert as we watch the sunset. The Sun becomes insignificant against the infinity of the horizon while it enchants us with its slow setting. A few kilometers away will have the opportunity to enjoy a wonderful view.
Perfect dunes molded by the breeze of the desert. The sand is so fine and soft that you don’t even feel it. And upon us, taking away our breath, a vault of lights, countless infinity of stars. In the center of this starry mantle the Milky Way dominates the sky and the light permeates everything, such a surprise, the night sky is full of light! Lying on the sand, muted by the heavens and with my sight submerged in the endless galaxy, my mind will become a comet flying through space. It’s funny, with so many stars it does not seem that we are so alone in the universe. Under this spectacular spectacle we will chat, dance and have tea again.