From the desert to the oasis
Belaide Laalili is a 48 year-old nomad who has chosen to settle on the edge of the Draa Oasis, in Zagora. Although his family roamed around the area of Chegaga and Zaouit Lmhasar, he visited the city often during the three years he attended school. As the eldest of six, two girls and four boys, he had to quit at the age of 10 to help his 75-year-old father working in the fields to support their family. The days were long and tiring, and the pay was not great. At times, he worked around 10 or 11 hours per day to earn the equivalent of one euro. If that was not enough he would get whatever job he could get his hands on, making sure all the money would go to his family. Life was not easy, but became even harder when his father died in 1985.
Then, 18-year-old Belaide found himself as the head of his family and the main provider. At the time, there were not many options in the desert, he had no education and as a Moroccan who loved his country joining the military seemed the obvious answer. Belaide was sent to the capital, Rabat, away from his family, the hot sun and the sandstorms of the desert. Fortunately, 11 years later life’s twists and turns took him back to the place he loved the most. The military sent 29-year-old Belaide to patrol the Moroccan-Algerian border in the south-east.
Belaide started visiting Mhamid often, a small village that for many tourists is the door to experience the desert, to ride camels, ride 4×4 in the endless dunes of the Sahara and stay in nomad camps. In the evening Belaide sat, once again with other nomads, smiled, picked up a guitar, or a drum and played the same music instruments he had learnt to play as a child. Although the nomad musician dressed as a military man was around often, no one knew his name. They knew his nickname, “Hodrast” – take your time – the word he repeated every day to everyone he crossed paths with.
“I felt life was easy, but people made life complicated.”
One day, in 2000, Belaid found himself thinking, “Maybe one day I can build a nice garden, where people can come over, I can play music every day and we can have fun.”
The thought became a dream, and the dream became a goal. And two years later, although Belaid was still in the military, he started creating his oasis. He started his project with a typical tent and a toilet, the first steps to make his dreams real. However, as soon as the first rain came falling from the sky, the simple structure was washed away. Belaide had to repeat what became his mantra, “Take your time.” Then, he started again. His part-time devotion to his project did not fill his soul, so in 2007, after 21 years in the military he quit for good. Belaide did not have enough money to do it all in one go, and could not afford to hire experts to assist him so he asked his brothers to help him. When they started there was nothing but air filling the area where his camping park now stands. The days were long, and they worked very hard, sometimes till 2 am. Often what they had built fell over and over again. It was a constant struggle for 12 years.
“Life is a journey, we are here to travel. And in the end, we will not take any of this with us.”
Now, “Prends ton temps” is a real artistic garden with cabins, toilets and showers, a kitchen, a restaurant and a music corner for the music instruments he learnt how to play over the years. He now employs four people, which means a total of five families benefit from the concretization of his dream. Maybe Belaide did not have the opportunity of going to school, but he got himself what he calls a degree in the school of life. He makes the most of it by sitting in his garden playing, writing songs, and discussing projects with other artists. In one of those discussions, he was given the opportunity of performing small roles in films like Wasia and Sarha. His dream is no longer inside his mind; it’s real.
What does Belaide say to those who dream of creating their own oasis?
“In a dream, we are never too late. Start by feeling the power of your dream and work seriously. ”
Name: Belaide Laalili
Passion: To create art
Inspiration: God and helping others