Not forgeting our Saharawi heritage
One of the easiest things one lose when exposed to western culture is that of his own identity and cultural principles. Having been exposed to European and American culture myself; I have met people who denied their belonging to their cultures of origin. It is sad and frustrating because to me, each culture has its unique characteristics and values that distinguish it from the others. These differences set a base for our existence and prosperity. If we did not have this diversity and instead everyone thought in the same way, the world would not have been a better place. However, I have observed one thing about the people from Western Sahara. It is the fact that it does not matter how long they are gone for, still they maintain their Saharawi principles.
It doesn’t matter for how long or where they gone, Saharawis always return to their own people. They also never forget the very long tea process (Atay), the Melhfa or Daraa or most importantly Hassaniya, which is the Saharawi native Arabic dialect. Many Saharawi refugees went to attend school in Cuba. After tens of years they come back and still able to integrate with the society. Warda was a good example of this case. Unlike me, she has lived most of her live abroad, yet she maintains her Saharawi identity. It came to me as a great surprise when I first met her that she spoke a perfect Hassaniya. She even reminded me of many terms that I don’t use anymore. Not only has she kept the language, but also the values and the Melhfa when appropriate.
I must say that it is not easy to keep up with your cultural tradition while trying to mix with the host society. It is particularly true for women in general and Saharawi women specifically. Saharawi female’s expectations are very different from that of an American female, for instance. The Saharawi culture is built upon respect, unity and acceptance. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with adopting modern ideas that could give a special flavor to one’s lifestyle. However, it – I believe – is essential that one conserves her or his basic cultural principles. Saharawi women have set a great example in this matter. From experience, I have not met a single Saharawi woman who denied her identity and cultural heritage.
While living far away from my people, I began to learn more and more about my culture and integrity. Life abroad had strengthened my beliefs and identity. When meeting others and they start to ask you about your culture, then you start to question yourself. That is what happened to me and that way I learnt even more. In addition, just the fact that I am Saharawi makes me prouder than anything else and hence, I am not ashamed of showing my identity.