Last Days Among the Saharawi

On my last day in the camps I had lunch on the edge of a minefield. I was only about 300 metres from the wall that separates the Saharawi from their homeland. As we sat there eating tuna sandwiches and barbecuing strips of camel meat on the tiny fire our driver prepared, Moroccan soldiers watched us from the top of the wall. I am sure they were happy to see us. Watching us eat lunch and drink tea was probably the most interesting thing the sentinels had seen in weeks.

For me, I was happy to finally see the structure that is the source of so many of the stories I heard in the preceding days. I recorded enough of them, I hope, and enough details about life in the camps to fill a chapter of my new book. I am looking forward to writing about the elaborate tea preperations and how many Saharawi women cover themselves completely when they are out of doors. This is not an act of religious faith, but of vanity. Pale skin is considered beautiful, and these women are fighting against the sun darkening their skin. My largest focus, though, will be to tell the stories about crossing over the wall and abandoning homes, friends, family and even ones own children for the relative security of the refugee camps.

In spite of their remarkable tales of escape, seperation, and exile I was most impressed with the spirit of the Saharawis. They all have heartbreaking stories to tell. They live in terrible conditions and have been waiting for over thirty years to return to lands stolen from them. Yet they are not a miserable people. They remain confident and welcoming. I was treated with such generosity from these people, and they have such little to give.

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