Writing the High Atlas: immortalizing a place

By Brahim Elboukhari

When Barb Mackraz from the Morocco Library Project first told me about the competition that Rooted Everyday Mediterranean short story was about to launch, I agreed to be part of the project without hesitation because it touches me a lot, and I believe that writing is an amazing tool to change the world.

Today, I want to talk about how writing can change the world in the area of the high Atlas in Morocco.

The people and the land in this area have created a bond that is impossible to break, because of the love for the land. People here suffered a lot because of the harsh weather, especially in winter. Every year, before winter comes, the inhabitants have to work like ants to store food and wood two important elements in the area because during winter they usually have to stay in their abodes for months before snow melts. But, they like the place, that’s what keeps them here.

As part of efforts to restore West Bakaa landscape multi-functionality and its associated cultural practices, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL) developed a management and restoration plan for degraded high mountain pastures in the Himas of West Bekaa in collaboration with the Environment and Sustainable Development Unit at the American University of Beirut and jointly implemented it with local municipalities and shepherds. Another important thing to talk about is biodiversity in High Atlas which is rich with thousands of plants that people use for medical purposes and some of those plans are sold by the locals to make a living.

The place was also rich with animals, unfortunately, most of them have disappeared and you see them only in zoos like the Atlas lion, which once was the symbol of the Berber warriors in the region.

In the past, the stories played an important part of life here in the High Atlas, they were used to entertain and to teach, they were the everyday newspapers of the people, but they all were oral. It’s time to write them down to immortalize the traditional practices and preserve everything for generations to come.

“Work in biodiversity has shined a light on the bond between the people and the land in the Mediterranean. This is an opportunity to celebrate our stories and traditional practices. I want to see stories that preserve the traditional themes of life in the Mediterranean by writing them in creative ways that will make people think deeply about these issues. I want to be entertained too.”

About the Author
Brahim Elboukhari is a Moroccan poet, author and a teacher of English. His works include: The Soft Wind of Summer: a collection of poems; The dark days of our village: The story of a land; Fragments of Moroccan society and; Representation and Resistance: A Post-Colonial Study to Bowles’ Sheltering Sky.

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Photos: © Brahim Elboukhari