La Vanguardia is a castilian-language newspaper from Catalunya that I often read when having lunch at the bakery near the archives. The backpage always has an interview with some interesting person with a fascinating life. Usually people who make a difference in their communities. Today’s feature was about Moussa ag Assarid.
Like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather, Moussa was a shepherd in the sahara, part of a nomadic Berber tribe called the Touareg. One day, when he was a child, the Paris-Dakar rally went through his camp and a book fell out of a French journalist’s bag. Moussa rushed to return the book to her but the journalist gave it to him as a gift and explained what it was about. It was the Little Prince. He vowed one day he would be able to read it himself. Two years later, after his mother died, he convinced his father to let him go to school. He walked 15 km every day until a teacher took pity on him and gave him a bed. A lady in the village fed him. His persistence paid off, he won a scholarship to study in France, has written a book and now studies management at the University of Montpellier. His book, Y’a pas d’embouteillage dans le désert! Chroniques d’un Touareg en France, became a huge hit in France and Moussa uses his new-found popularity to speak in defence of the nomadic pastoral tribes that live in the desert of North Africa.
In Europe, he cried when he saw running water for the first time. Until that day, he says, “every day of my life had been spent in the search and collection of water”. His mother died in a drought when he was twelve. Seeing water run from faucets was too powerful for him. It still pains him when he sees elaborate water fountains. But what shocked him the most was the materialism of western society, the fast-paced life, our inability to live the here and now. The lack of human contact that lead so many to pay so that specialists can listen to our problems.
Moussa’s life is one of those inspirational stories that make us think about our own life and sense of priorities. He’s going to be here in Barcelona next monday and we hope to catch his photography exhibit at Baïbars bookstore.
In Spanish, his book is called En el desierto no hay atascos: un Tuareg en la ciudad