Nomad Turned Date Farmer
For two weeks in January I traveled a large loop through Morocco arriving home with over 5,000 photos (and some other fun stuff too).
So when Spoonflower (a print-on-demand fabric company) had “Vintage Postcard” as their weekly design challenge I decided to create my repeating pattern based on some of those photos.
I learned a lot during those two weeks, one being that the current king of Morocco created this thing called Greening the Sahara that says if you take a patch of the Sahara; dig a well; make it green, and keep it that way for 7 years then it’s yours. I met a guy, Muhammed, who did exactly that.
Muhammed is depicted in my design leaning against a small building. Inside that building is a small, rounded, earthen oven where the family bread is baked.
Before we officially met Muhammed, I saw him as we disembarked our bus, standing quietly in the background, beaming as he watched his young granddaughter - about 4 years old - rush to greet us with her henna covered palm stretched out to shake every one of our hands (there were 12 of us). Then she strutted us back to her granddad. By the sparkle in his eyes I think he knew that that little girl was going somewhere someday.
Muhammed was once a nomad who decided to settle down. He dug himself a well and pushed some date palm branches into the sand. One thing led to another and today he manages a super attractive spread of date palm trees in groves at different levels of maturity, He also grows the food for his family, as well as his donkey, chickens, and goats. I don’t think I could have found a happier, and more proud, man anywhere on the planet.
He was impressive. And told us how he created what we saw. Apparently there is water not that far down under the sand, waiting to be tapped. He dug two wells - one sweet, one salty - built a pump house to hold the mechanics; and laid pipe, some underground, some overground, for irrigation. The sweet water is for humans and most vegetables. The salty is for date palms, olive trees, and some other salt tolerant flora like the tamarisk tree. He handed us a branch … biting into a leaf you can taste the salt.
He raced up the side of a date palm, using the stubs of cut-off palm fronds as a ladder, to show us how he manually pollinates the date flowers. You could not help but love this 67 year old guy and his humble patch of green in the hot dry desert.
Even his goats were excited when them saw him headed to their enclosure - their front hooves on the top of the fence with their necks stretched forward waiting for Muhammad's sun-browned hand to nuzzle the tops of their noses.
You can see Muhammed in my Vintage Postcard - Morocco pattern. He is the white turbaned guy leaning his hand on the little house; reigning over his humble patch of beautiful, green Sahara, creating a life for him and his extended family.
I’m so glad I met him.