I would be remiss in my recollections of my travels to Morocco if I did not write about the young man who left such a lasting impression on my heart; our guide, Driss.
Perhaps it is because I have a son so close in age, that I looked upon this young man with such admiration for what he has accomplished in his life. Driss touched my heart deeply, both as a mother & as a friend.
Despite the burdens thrust upon him at such a young age, he managed to bear the weight of that responsibility with the maturity of a man way beyond his years.
Recognising the value of education, through hard work & determination, he managed to put himself through school, including university. No small feat, given the circumstances.
There are 2 university systems in Morocco, one is public & one is private. The latter is known to be a better education system, but for most Moroccan families, it is not attainable from an economic standpoint.
Attending university would impact Driss in life-changing ways. The opportunity to further his education, to learn English (just one of several languages he has mastered), and form a friendship with another young man, Youssef, who would open up opportunities he had not even considered.
So what was it about this young man that caused me to feel that he was so special?
It was upon our meeting Driss on our first day, that we were made aware of what a gentle spirit this young man possessed.
Getting to know each other over a coffee in Chefchaouen, we were approached by a young boy selling a chotsky in the square. We declined his sale, showing disinterest in what he was selling, but Driss engaged in conversation with him.
Speaking softly to the young boy, eventually he reached in to his pocket to make the purchase of a key chain. We were surprised by this & asked Driss why he agreed to purchase a key chain. It was the first time he would share with us that he was once that boy, selling what he could, in order to help bring money home to family.
An all too familiar reality for many families in Morocco.
A few days later, we found ourselves driving on a small road when a young boy all but stepped in front of our vehicle.
Instead of expressing anger, Driss rolled down his window & called the young boy over to speak to him.
Once again, he handled this child with such warmth & genuine care. Recognising that he was simply hungry, Driss offered him food that we had in the vehicle, all the while quietly explaining to him the dangers of his actions & that he should never put himself in harm’s way.
On yet another occasion, when leaving his village after our visit with is mother, he asked Ahmed to pull over to speak to an elderly gentlemen sitting out in front of his house in his wheelchair.
Grabbing his hand, he engaged in conversation with such loving appreciation & respect for this elderly man. Although we did not bring it to his attention, we watched as Driss reached into his pocket, to tuck a little something into his palm before leaving.
Time & time again, we would witness Driss handle situations, particularly with children, with a grace & a patience that comes from an understanding of what it meant to be in their place. My respect for him grew with each passing day we spent together, often leaving me speechless as he openly shared his life experiences with us.
To say that we felt Driss went above & beyond, is an understatement. His kind & thoughtful gestures were endless. They did not go unnoticed on our behalf.
Finding a donkey in Ramlia because Fatima expressed she would like to ride one!
Dancing with the Gnawa tribe.
If I were asked to characterize him, I would describe Driss as one of the most exceptional young men I have had the honour of meeting in my life.
He possesses such a gentle spirit and has a heart the size of the universe. He is soft-spoken, with a calm demeanor. He is intelligent & wise beyond his years. He is proud yet he is humble. He is strong in his beliefs yet open-minded enough to consider alternative ways. When he laughs, his laughter fills a room. He is exceptional indeed.
Saying goodbye was a bittersweet, tearful departure, met with lots of mom hugs & bits of advice.
Driss, to reinforce what I said to you on the day we parted ways, never question what a remarkable young man you are. Seek joy in your life to make you happy, find courage to pursue your dreams, look for opportunities to be all that you can be.
Know that you are always welcome in our home & we would welcome you with open arms.
My heart is fuller for having met you my friend, my Moroccan adopted son.
Sending you love & Mom hugs,
Ayesha, a.k.a, one of your moms in Canada!♥