By Omar Bihmidine
By Omar Bihmidine
Morocco World News
Sidi Ifni, Morocco, August 13, 2012
Located in the Anti-Atlas Mountains in the south of Morocco, Tafraout is a town in Tiznit province Souss Massa Draa, and it is about 430 kilometers (268 miles) south west of Marrakech. What characterizes the roads leading to Tafraout is that they are hard to travel and are intricately mountainous.
Traveling there is challenging for new visitors and tourists, but people native to the town are accustomed to the snaking lanes and roads leading to the city center. Despite the distracting cliffs and winding roads, one can have the chance to enjoy some remarkable scenery there, such as the naturally engraved head of the lion on a mountain summit on the outskirts of Tafraout. Yet, most interesting of all is that this town, albeit small, has given birth to high-ranking officials, ministers, distinguished writers and poets, businessmen, comedians, and many other celebrities that have gone down in history.
One of them is Mohamed Khair-Eddine, my favorite Amazigh novelist. Khair-Eddine was born in Tafraout in 1941 and traveled to France in 1957 where he made his debut in writing novels. Once there, he made the acquaintance of Jean Paul Sartre, Samuel Beckett and many other notable French authors. His writings took on a unique style as Sartre once described it. “Life and Legend of Agunchiche,” one of his novels, touches on the landscapes, the scenery, panoramic views, Amazigh tribes, forgotten traditions, miracles and legends that belong to Tafraout and its outlying areas.
Khair-Eddine, a very much-acclaimed author now and he was among the first writers to have written about the Amazigh culture pertaining to Tafraout, his hometown. Anyone desiring to learn about Argan trees in Tafraout, for instance, and their value to the Amazigh simply needs to read Khair Eddine’s novels, especially “Agunchiche” and “Once upon a day there was a happy couple.”
Another celebrity of today is Saadeddine El Othmani, Morocco’s Foreign Minister. Of Amazigh descent, El Othmani, who holds a PhD in medicine and psychiatry, is originally from Tafraout. His ancestors lived in this town long ago before they moved to settle in Inzegane for some time. As a well-cultivated man, he has never forgotten his origins–which he traces back to Tafraout, the land of emerging and budding geniuses.
From time to time, El Othmani pays his hometown visits to reminisce the days of glory when he and his family used to rely on crops and harvest for their livelihood. In 2004, as head of Justice and Development Party, El Othmani came to Tafraout to celebrate his success and share it with his fellows and neighbors in the town. He was warmly welcomed and the PJD gained many votes from his hometown.
Born in Tafraout, Aziz Akhnouch is Morocco’s current minister of agriculture and maritime fishing. He is also a notable businessman who owns a number of companies and firms, including Afriquia Gaz and Tissir Gaz. He is a high-ranking administrator at Banque marocaine du commerce extérieur (BMCE) and Fondation Academia. He has run many lucrative businesses and is therefore among the wealthiest of Moroccan businessmen.
Smitten by his lovely hometown, Akhnouch has launched several agricultural projects in the area, one of which is sowing six thousand almond trees in Tafraout and the outskirts. People from Tafraout are so proud of him, particularly that he frequently defends the long-neglected, charming Tafraout. He has also equipped the local public schools with free-of-charge school buses. Even though it is a small town, Tafraout has gained national acclaim mainly thanks to the key figures who call it home
In regards to comedy, Tafraout has offered us Hussein Beniaz, a much cherished comedian. He is so proud of his hometown, and he always seizes the opportunity to perform at the annual festivals held there. Sometimes, he tells nice jokes about his ancestry. People from Tafraout stand in ovation whenever they see the man live on television. Interestingly, he is a political activist who is famous for ironic speeches.
In all frankness, it is worth bearing in mind that despite the hard conditions under which the majority of people from Tafraout live, they have succeeded in rearing some of the most successful people in Morocco. Despite the neglect that has plagued this town for decades and the snake-like, mountainous roads leading to it, a number of people from there has not given up hope. Here lies one of the mysteries of Tafraout.