Knowledge sharing and life story swapping in Asilah …

Everyday on the road, offers so many opportunities:

  • Being in a different place, raises your awareness about your surroundings
  • Different places offer different scents, customs, culture and food
  • Everyone you meet, offers a different perspective on the shared existence that we are all a part of. We all have a story, and every story is interesting, glorious and tragic in its own right.

Today in Asilah, I had the opportunity to meet a man with a story similar to mine in many ways, but yet turned out so differently in many other ways. In life, it is the obvious cliche to say that “Everything happens for a reason”, but when we do come to this realization, it seems to always catch us by surprise. In my time here in Morocco, I have had some of the most spiritually rewarding travel experiences; not just in terms of the seeing different places, had slow lovely death by Tagine de Kafta and discovering one of the most gorgeous and diverse countries but had the chance to meet and interact with some of the most interesting people.

Mohammed (I don’t even have his last name), met me the previous night when the taxi driver stopped by the shop that he and his friend Fuad were at for directions to Hotel Al Alba. Both of them jumped in the car and took us to the hotel, Mohammed introduced himself and left with Fuad on foot after. I have to say that I was not the most cordial or grateful for their help, since I was frustrated at the rail system, the “grand taxi” I had to hire and being completely cut off during the drive through the rainstorm; but this wasn’t their issue.

Heading  out today in some glorious sunshine (it happens like that … torrential rain at night, clears into a gorgeous day time weather), I happened to run into Mohammed and Fuad completely by chance on the road to the Medina. Completely random time I left the guesthouse ( 12.31pm), they were coming back from prayers and I had the choice of the beach path or the medina road, and by choosing the Medina road, we ran into each other and they recognized me  … I didn’t even remember them. He invited me to walk along to his parent’s house and that walk turned into a 12 hour adventure and learning session about the life of a small town like Asilah, discussions with shopkeepers about business, a defacto web design tutorial, discussion of the failures of Moroccan business, carpet sales techniques and strategy, tea, multiple breaks for prayer while I was left in shops and carpet shops by myself and more importantly some life lessons to make me appreciate the time and opportunity that I have been given.

As for the day, Mohammed took me around his Asilah, telling me about the beautiful, clean Medina and the architecture of the houses, the lost art of weaving and tile making, his sadness at the loss of innocence of the Asilah that he knew to the foreigners buying property and converting them to guesthouses and the changing landscape that accompanies vacation property development.


Walking through the town is to appreciate a slower, relaxed pace of life, not unlike what we have in the villages in Trinidad, but even that is being lost with ever increasing urbanization. Walking around the medina is to appreciate the the old, restored houses with their special doors and Zellige tiles. (Zellige or Zellij is terra cotta tilework covered with enamel in the form of chips set into plaster. It is one of the main characteristics of the Moroccan architecture). Having Mohammed there to explain the houses and the restoration work was something that really helped me to appreciate the work that goes into these houses.

Asilah is a city of Art, with the artesans display their work everywhere. Simple clean lines, brilliant blue hues everywhere contrasting with the stark gleaming whites. It really is a picture perfect little town … for now.

Walking through the town with Mohammed and talking with the shopkeepers from the business-like Adbel, who has ideas to improve his situation but lacks the foresight and exposure to execute the vision that he has to Omar the affable Carpet salesman who has changed from the “Fassian carpet animal” that we have all grown weary of, into a more mellow, relaxed salesman who wishes to see change in the carpet selling ritual from the whole haggling drama into something more modern but is constrained by customs of his business and of the customers.

What is still amazing, is the trust that people here still have in each other. Closing the shop for 20 minutes, for instance, simply involves putting a wooden stick diagonally across the door and trusting that your neighbour will watch your goods for you. Living in Toronto or even going back home to Trinidad, this isn’t something that we have any longer, and it makes me sad that there are no future generations that will ever know that innocence.

After talking all day, it was time for tea and simple dinner … then time for more chat and story swapping …

No matter, where I travel, our stories of love, life and just being in the shared consciousness even if we’re not aware of each individual in it, are invariably similar. It’s just funny to remember that while sharing bread and chat with a man from Asilah.

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About Rishiray

Rishi Sankar is a Cloud HRMS Project Manager/ Solution Architect. Over the past 15+ years, he has managed to combine his overwhelming wanderlust with a desire to stay employed, resulting in continuing stints with 3 major consulting firms (IBM, Deloitte, Accenture). He documents his adventures around the world on "Ah Trini Travelogue" with pictures and stories from the road/tuk-tuk/camel/rickshaw. You can follow him on Twitter at @rishiray and on Facebook at "Ah Trini Travelogue . He doesn't like Chicken Curry but loves Curry Chicken and is always trying to find the perfect Trinidadian roti on the road. He also doesn't like cheese and kittens ... and definitely not together. E-mail from his blog is appreciated like a 35 yr old Balvenie at

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