Gudrun works for the Holiday Participation Centre of Tourism Flanders. She is also part of the network of Storyweavers for Connect Your Story.
... in search of the real Morroco
This is the story of four girls on an unplanned trip to Morocco. Gudrun had been there in 2010, with her sister, whom she considers one of her best friends. They hired a local guide, Hamid. Despite the differences in culture and living environments, Hamid and the girls bonded on this journey, which strengthened their belief that investing in relationships and being open to the unknown are definitely worth it. While having a cup of tea during that Moroccan trip, two beautiful worlds intertwined and got to know each other a little better.
“We wanted to travel across Morocco from Marrakesh to Fez. And we definitely wanted to spend a night in the Sahara”, says Gudrun. They hired a local guide, which turned out to be one of the best decisions of their trip.
Hamid, a young Moroccan, took them to the most beautiful places. They followed him into the Sahara, gazed at the stars together and spent the night in the desert. It was a brilliant experience and they were astounded by the magnificence of nature. “You really feel like you’re a grain of sand…”, says Gudrun.
"Travelling makes you discover yourself and see yourself in relation to someone else." Gudrun Willems
The kind and helpful Hamid did remain quite reserved during the whole trip. The girls did their best to make him feel comfortable, spoke French to him, tried to make him feel included. To them, he was part of the group. But the results were very limited, until something very special happened. After the tour, Hamid invited them for a meal at his family home in Northern Morocco. For Gudrun, this came as a surprise, as Hamid came across as being timid and introverted during the whole trip.
“Hamid had never invited tourists to his home before. It felt very special to us”, says Gudrun proudly. At home, Hamid was a completely different person. He cordially introduced his travel companions to his family. The four travellers felt very welcome in this warm nest, filled with the sweet scent of tajine, a true immersion in Moroccan cooking. Gudrun observed the colourfulness of this culture in the henna-tainted hands of the women. They gradually felt more at home in his family and in this warm and welcoming environment, Hamid really began to open up. It was a special moment.
"We entered Hamid’s home and as we smelled the sweet scent of tajine, we immediately felt very welcome." Gudrun Willems
"The feeling a local guide can convey about his country and customs is indescribable", Gudrun insists. "Thanks to him, we got to know the people of Morocco. Being invited to his home was a crucial part of that. Talking to each other enabled us to gain a better understanding of our respective worlds." Having a nice, cosy cup of tea together, chatting and appreciating why someone thinks in a certain way are important aspects of travelling according to Gudrun.