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Carnet de voyage de Goulimine, Smara, Dahkla, Maroc. Jacques Bravo



Colonial conquests distorted the outlook for a  good century by inventing limits to the "Sons of the clouds" who knew only one master: the rain refreshing the sebkas and making  grow in a few days enough to feed their thousands of camels.  Tindouf, a false capital created from scratch in 1934, is a shell  historically empty: is not Timbuktu who wants, and even less  Sijilmassa, capital of exchanges with blacks.

The symbiosis between the Sahara and the Almohad Empire that has become a Cherifian  is millennial. We understand it better by going from Guelmim to Smara.  Guelmim, a large Saharan port whose market brings in thousands of  beasts forever.

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The village has become a city of some 250,000 inhabitants.  Chameleon effect in this shades of brown and beige, the bricks like  the fabrics are of a rare elegance. Draped identically, the two friends,  who no doubt come out of one of those craft workshops that animate the young  capital, will disappear in the bricks that look like them:  it is a mirage, city dweller, at the gates of the desert of true mirages.


This lady of a certain age, wrapped in her so photogenic draped garment,  learned to read, in the middle of the street, in a children's book, a sort of primer.  She was proud of her energy and happy to  show their progress.

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A photo will never answer the question we will always ask ourselves:  this goat that gives almost two liters of milk a day  (not spontaneously, you have to hinder its front legs!),  how does she feed herself?

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Laayoune Oasis.

This is not where La Méduse de sad memoire ran aground, because we are not at the edge of the ocean.  However, the illusion is perfect, especially as an opportunistic seagull hovers merrily to complete  the decor. These perfectly curved dunes are a short kilometer from the capital of the Saharan provinces  while we can believe ourselves in the heart of the Grand Erg: yet I am alone in the world. Want to pitch your tent,  to breathe deeply the freshness of the trade winds in this blockbuster setting. This amethyst sea  is only the ultimate form of a Saharan river which becomes very small before disappearing in the golden sands:  the Seguiet al-Hamra, the red river which comes from Smara, multiplies into enamel lakes where the sun plays in the azure.

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The "Guedra"   from Laayoune ..

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The "Guedra"   from Laayoune ..

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The oasis of Laayoune.

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Laayoune Oasis.

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Port of Laayoune

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Port of Laayoune

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The Naïla lagoon and its salt-meadow sheep.

Smara, the mythical city of sands


The two books that made me come and come back to Smara

Smara is  the title of a book written by  Michel Vieuchange . These texts repeat the travel diaries he kept from September 10 to November 16, 1930, completing almost 1  400  miles  by foot  Tiznit  in Smara.

Michel Vieuchange's travel diaries were published by Plon in 1932, by Jean Vieuchange, his brother, under the title  Smara, among the dissidents of southern Morocco and Rio de Oro, with 53 engravings and a map, and a preface by Paul Claudel.


The rock of Tbeïla is the goal of my trip to Smara, lost in the immensity, difficult to find, despite  its size, when one is twenty meters away! The writer Le Clézio gave him real notoriety in the West: it is there  that the very virtuous Sidi Ahmed el-Arrousi settled and installed. We still see two holes in the sandstone:  traces of his first steps. It is not a "wonderful column", much less a meteorite,  but a sacred sign. It is the Imam of Smara, who on the right directs the prayer on the tomb of the saint in his  mausoleum, which allowed me to approach it. The faithful, and they alone, take the ladder to pray at the top.


The Rock of Tbeila

His son El-Hiba will unite the tribes and fight against the advancing troops  French in the south of Morocco in 1905. Remains of this time the rock

of Tbeïla, well hidden in the immensity forty-five kilometers from  Smara, where Saint Sidi Ahmed el-Arrousi landed after being  "teleported" from Marrakech by a benevolent genius, according to legend.  The man of prayer immediately began his teaching and the names  of his disciples are etched in the sandstone eroded by the wind.


the Rock, an enormous and mysterious block of sandstone which served as a refuge for the saint, "observation post on space, eternity".



A moment of high spirituality thanks to a meeting near the city that did so much  fantasize, symbol of these forces that reached as far as Toledo.  A saint's tomb in a simple, truly monastic building.

And some of the R'guibat chiefs, the "Sons of the clouds", who pray.


The rock of Tbeïla, the imam and his son



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A notable received me in  passing the jug of milk first  of camel, then the hot tea  to make you forget the heat.  The hospitality of the “sons of the clouds”  is not a ready-made formula,  it's a reality, I've never met  so much kindness, true.  His "family" shared a half  dozen tents, separated by a  30 yards from each other.  Their village freely.

The council of R'guibat chiefs, the "Sons of the clouds",


Some of the R'guibat chiefs.

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The Zaouia of Smara and the grandson of Ma el-Aïnin

it constituted a religious and political center for the Sahara at the beginning of the 20th century  century.


The Zaouia of Smara.

It has been restored, except for the mosque, which is in ruins.


Smara remains a  high place of spirituality. Founded by Ma el-Aïnin who preached the return  to Orthodoxy and who remained for a very long time in Mecca in the company  of the eldest son of the sultan of Morocco Moulay Abderrhamane. Much more  later, he became the envoy of Sultan Moulay Hassan the Great: we found  in 1938 his dahir of command signed by the sovereign.


In the palace of the great Ma El Aïnin, at the entrance to the city,  his grandson Shebet carries on the tradition while adapting


To know more about Ma El Aïnin,

click on the link below

Capture d’écran 2019-01-26 à

the old  spanish fort of smara


Spring camp around Smara.



Inside a tent, one is always amazed by the space and comfort.  The tent is not a second best made necessary by the thinness of the pastures  that you have to constantly look for, it's a real place to live, friendly, warm,  colorful, surprisingly fresh. Comfortable: you have to have experienced it to experience it.



The outdoor kitchen 








Near Smara, a camp.  The smile of the little girl in her grandmother's arms is very revealing of the pleasure that nomads - or semi-nomads -  or transhumant, as you wish – experience in their tent. It's not a second best, it's a choice,  and the cleverly arranged tent is remarkably ventilated. Much more comfortable than large hard dwellings  like cupboards! The little girl's mother cooked outside, protected by an azib of branches and thorns.  The grandmother had stopped for a moment churning the camel's milk, placed in a goat's skin, to cuddle the  little girl. My presence didn't bother anyone and I've never taken so much mint tea, so sweet.

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On the way to Dahkla.

So framed it looks like a bunch of starving beasts then  that these are a few "bumps" from a herd of several  hundreds of heads settling in a new pasture,  along the coastline. An essential element of

"richness"  that we understand when we survey sand and pebbles.


The evidence that the Sahara begins at the ocean should not make us forget  that it procures more earthly joys. This unique encounter between  two fronts, the ocean swell and the waves of sand, present, between  others, two advantages. Provide light mists, vapors at night  of water from which the two hundred and fifty plants benefit  herds, therefore men. Enable sport today;  most fashionable distraction: kitesurfing. 'Cause the wind always blows  the border of the two temperatures and allows you to rise in the air  all year. The Dakhla lagoon is an ideal playground since the  kitesurfer who would have missed his shot only falls back into one meter of water  and recovers very quickly. Higher, faster, safer! With the feeling  to be alone in the world above the sparkling shores.

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The Dakhla lagoon, an immensity in pastel colors. The sea, the sand, and again the ocean, and more deep beaches  of five hundred meters, long of tens of kilometers completely virgin.

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The lagoon of Dakhla, the first campsite of the lagoon.

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