By Mohamed Handour
By Mohamed Handour
Morocco World News
Beni Mellal, Morocco, August 11, 2012
The number of people claimed by solitude in the mountains of Azilal (231 miles south east of Rabat) is enormously high. Some have managed to adopt to their solitary way of life while others are in a continuous struggle with it. Many families here are compelled to live without their children since the latter have deserted the region, temporarily or forever, in search of some menial work to earn their bread and butter and send a few coins back home.
Halima, however, is chronically lonesome. She is a childless widow who bade a permanent farewell to her husband years ago. Since his death, no one has been left behind to share her solitude and keep her company except her pets. Upon her donkey, her few sheep, her cat and dog, Halima bestows immense love and she dotes on them all.
When I walk past her reed roofed adobe hut on a short trip to the nearest shop or on my way to perform a prayer, I occasionally hear or see her address her sheep in words laden with affection and love. “Come and drink, sweetheart,” she said once as she stepped her way towards an old ewe. “After that, I will bring you all the fodder I can lay my hands on; you and the others are the only ones I am living for after the departure of my dear husband,” she added. Anyone who does not know her would have little doubt that Halima is instructing a little girl on housework chores or speaking to a boy about to leave for school.
The childless widow, like numerous others in the mountains of Azilal , has grown accustomed to living alone and fending for herself. The main source of livelihood Halima depends on is the little money she earns from selling a ram, a rooster or a dozen eggs her hens are willing to offer every now and then.
Halima’s daily routine during Ramadan is not special. Her days are all the same and her activities are repetitive. No religious event or any other national feast is capable of bringing about a typical change; and no ‘donation’ could stand out as a silver bullet to reverse her situation. After a modest Souhour, tea, bread and olive oil, the middle-aged widow turns over her plastic shoes and beats them against the ground in case a scorpion has been lying inside and then puts them on. She then heads for the open fenced space outside and sets her ten sheep free.
In spite of all this, Halima, deliberately or not, has never failed to let people know that her spirits are always high. She sings, smiles and repeats hymns as her small flock grazes (heaven knows what on). Towards sunset, she returns home and locks her sheep in. She also pays a visit to the donkey that has been tied to the bark of an olive tree all day long to see if he is all right and provides him with some water. She subsequently calls her chicken to feed them with a handful of barley or wheat; and she mustn’t forget to spare some time for her dog and cat.
Following this thorough inspection, Halima still has energy to go down a steep slope at the bottom of which there is a well that supplies her and her animals with ‘potable’ water. The content of a twenty-liter jar, carried on her back, suffices to quench her thirst and clean her utensils.
Half an hour is more than enough for Halima to light a fire and prepare a quick meal with which to break fast. A bowl of broth, a cup of tea and a slice of bread will do to restore Halima’s lost energy. She performs the five prayers all at once in less than ten minutes and throws herself into her threadbare bed.
If our great Arab poet, ALmoutanabbi, once bewailed the newly occurred Aid for having brought nothing special to him, Halima likewise has always celebrated Ramadan in her God-forsaken Douar in similar conditions. (Deplorable or otherwise, no one can tell but Halima herself).
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