Some time ago, a friend of mine told me about his travel through the Sahara. What enchanted him the most was the stillness of the desert, the absolute absence of sound.
When I had the opportunity of volunteering in Rabat, the capital of Morocco, I recalled my friend’s words. I wished to stay at least one day in utter silence, in the dunes.
Despite Rabat is quite far from the desert, I wanted to go to the Sahara at any cost. I got information and one Friday I took a train from Rabat to Meknes, and then a night bus to Merzouga, a town close to the desert.
I arrived in Merzouga when it was still dark. I was dozing when a man with a turban on his head awoke me. He showed me a picture of a hotel near the desert and offered to take me there.
The owner of the hotel proposed me to spend the night in a Bedouin tent in the desert. In the daytime I would remain in the hotel, which was just a few steps from the desert.
From the hotel I walked to the desert. Dune after dune I tried to find the absolute silence, but it was not possible because I was too near the town.
In the late afternoon, a camel-driver came with three camels to take a young Moroccan couple with their little child and me to the Bedouin tents.
The young lady wore a headscarf and looked like a nun. She was in an advanced state of pregnancy. The child was not more than two years old.
The camel-driver said something to the camels, which immediately crouched.
We all mounted our camels and set off towards the desert. The camel-driver led the camels on foot.
It was dusk. Our small caravan led by the camel-driver proceeded along the dunes. The lady was quite talkative and all the way turned back to me to talk about her religion. I had the impression that she tried to convert me to Islam.
When we arrived at the bivouac, it was already dark. It started raining and we remained in the camel-driver’s tent to eat. The young lady cooked a delicious food. Then we went to our tents to sleep.
The following day at daybreak we set off for our hotel.
The young couple was very kind to me, and invited me to travel in their car to Marrakesh, a very ancient and beautiful city, but I declined their invitation.
I thought I was a burden to them, furthermore I had to go back to Rabat to work on my book. The young couple seemed offended by my refusal.
After I left Morocco, for some reason I remembered that meeting. What a fool I was! I had the chance to know new people, and visit more places in Morocco, instead I refused their invitation.
If I consider the missed opportunities of my life, I see that they are much more than those I seized.
Perhaps the same goes for everybody. As for me, my missed opportunities are a good lesson to me. Next time I will not waste favorable chances. I will treasure the gifts that life gives me.
Ettore Grillo, author of A Hidden Sicilian History