Tales of Imilchil

By Youba Darif, Morocco

I am called Youba, a name given to me by my father, who was deeply in love with the Amazigh culture of North Africa. I Discovered the meaning of my name when his fingertips traced the papers of a history book that told the story of the great Amazighi King Youba. A Moroccan, of Tafraout, a small semi-desert town in the anti-atlas in the south of Morocco.

I grew up in Agadir, a coastal modern city located in the South East of the country. This is a city where the Atlantic waves welcome surfers from all over the world and where the sun shines most of the year. It is reputed to have the warmest weather in my country.

Leaving behind me the sun of Agadir, and guided by my desire to see the snow for the first time, and being marveled by the myth of Isli (the groom) and Tislit (the bride) lakes, which tell the romance of two lovers who is quite similar to that of Romeo and Juliet, I decided to venture to Imilchil town. But the town of the legend has a hard reality…

The snow was all I wanted to see of this little town located at 2200 meters up in High Atlas Morocco. I was planning to learn skiing, enjoy the landscape and eat some delicious local food. The first thing I saw was the hills, mountains, and woods beautifully covered by white. Hence, my journey seemed promising. However, a sudden meeting with a twelve-year-old boy changed everything. A small human caught my eyes, he made me notice people.

He was a short skinny boy, with innocent green eyes, greener than the lake of Tislit that reflected apple trees’ leaves, deeper and more mysterious than the mountains appearing over the horizon. His cheeks were red because of the cold, a redness that showed the cruelty of life in such a freezing region. This boy also had a green tattoo on his right hand, with a special symbol that I had never seen before. I was drawn by his tattoo.


My curiosity lead me to ask him about the meaning of his tattoo. His answer was unexpected. In his village, that tattoo is given to babies who lost their mother during birth. I felt empathy towards him. Then I grabbed a biscuit from my bag, asking about his name. it was Saïd (Happy in Arabic). His name didn’t reflect his unhappy appearance.

He reminded me of my childhood when my uncommon name was a source of embarrassment. I understand how being different could annoy kids. He gave the impression of being a brilliant student, so I interrupted him to ask about school.  Unfortunately, he told me that he didn’t go to school. It wasn’t that surprising, but it was painful to hear.

I felt like the slogan of this little town should be “NO EDUCATION, NO HEALTHCARE, WELCOME TO IMILCHIL.”This land where women die giving birth and children stay home to feed sheep at an age where they should go to school. I started questioning myself, why a region full of potential would live in the margins? Why is the government not taking its responsibility? Is it normal that a twelve years old boy will stay without any education?

This incident made me forget about the initial purpose of why I came to this region. The white-snow turned dark in my eyes. The mountains on the horizon were deaf and indifferent to this misery, just like the government. Maybe both of them are used to see people suffering.
But Not me, my fragile heart could not remain indifferent to this misery of my co-citizens!

Today with a lot of hope and aspiration, I am making it my responsibility to tell their story, to give a voice to Saïd and his people from Imilchil. I would like to mention that they are not voiceless, they have a beautiful voice that deserves to be heard. We only have to turn off off the lights of technology and try to have some time to feel humans and see their daily struggles to survive.

This is just one example of the important work produced by YaLa’s citizen journalists, a program funded by the European Union’s Peacebuilding Initiative in order to enable young leaders from across the Middle East and North Africa to document and share their experiences of the region. eupi-both-flags.png

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