„My name is Islam,” said the local guy from Laayoune couple of minutes after starting a conversation with us. He had come to speak to us in order to practice English and talk to foreigners in Laayoune. And it was quite obvious we weren’t from around there due to our skin color and hair.
Islam has a dream, the American dream. He wants to go to the United States of America and work as an auto mechanic, occupation he knew quite much about, having worked on the same job in Laayoune since young age. „Knowledge comes with practice,” was his explanation for no education in the field. Got to agree with that.
Islam was our first encounter with a local person who didn’t want to sell us something or ask for anything. He just wanted to talk. Wanted to know about us and tell a lot about who he is. That’s something new in Morocco
and very salutary. He was happy to tell us his deepest secrets – because he knew the chance of us meeting again is one to million. Well, he didn’t tell us his deepest secrets but it was still a quite interesting conversation.
He did manage to ruin our view of Moroccan youth as god-loving people who say no to alcohol. He did believe in God, but his approach to god was very European and very tolerant towards other religions. Everyone needs to believe in something and everyone has the right to, independent who you warship – be it Jesus Christ or Allah, the lord and savior of the Muslim people. I didn’t tell him I’m more of an atheist or maybe an agnostic, but I still liked his view on religion. Tolerance, tolerance from a true believer – that’s what was refreshing.
Tourists are being ripped off a lot in Morocco, local people are trying to get the most from foreigners. In eyes of Islam, it’s normal. If they ask for more and you can give them more, they probably needed it more than you do anyhow. They are happy and you’re not much poorer. You have done good to someone. And if you do good to others, good things will happen to you later today, tomorrow or in the future. In a way I couldn’t agree with him more.
At the same time I got just a bit worried – if you just hope for that good to happen, day after day, then you end up with giving and giving and giving some more. In my belief system, in addition to doing good to others you need to take action in order for something good to happen to you. If you just wait and believe...I guess that’s just the difference between me and people who do believe.
In Laayoune you can drink (and buy) alcohol in the expensive hotel where most of the UN staff lives in. Most likely there are some other places to drink in too, but one place we didn’t unfortunately get to was introduced to us by Islam – he said that there’s a nice pub in the beach, something called Jose’s. A pub/bar run by a Spanish dude. Islam had really got wasted the day before. Too much alcohol and pot.
The reason why very many locals in Morocco
smoke pot is quite simple – it costs half as much as cigarettes. At least to the locals. Foreigners can probably only dream of those prices.
His name is Islam and his dream is to go to United States and become an auto mechanic. Before he can do that he’ll need to get a passport, get a paper that says he’s no criminal and he also needs a visa. He has traveled quite a bit to this date, but so far only within Morocco. But he has a dream. Independent of how difficult it might be for him to reach it. One way or another, I wish him all the best.
During our time in Laayoune (around 36 hours) we didn’t see many foreigners. There was me, my friend, one guy with curly hair (who turned out to be an American with alleged occupation of an „English teacher”...more about that in my next posts), and an old crazy German guy who wanted to go to Mauritania for a day. Go figure.
When I asked Islam if they get a lot of tourists in Laayoune during the high season, he said yes, they have plenty, at least 25-40.
Continued in next post...