Sign Language For Breakfast In Western Sahara

     I never knew her name, but I am grateful for one of the most humbling, feminine connections I’ve ever experienced while camping in the Sahara Desert. I was woken before sunrise by our camel herder after our night trek. Having been determined to sleep under the stars and freezing my ass off, I put on my makeshift hijab and and wrapped myself up in the thick blanket to head off east over the nearest sand dune. Upon the sun’s glorious introduction, I made my way away from the camp, feeling completely safe – just the sand for miles and cosmic blanket still visible in the rapidly changing, colorful sky above. After about thirty minutes of the normal pondering on the universe and life’s existence, a young girl about six years old approached me from over a sand dune. She waved at me to follow her over the hill and towards a nomadic tent site. I cautiously followed behind and was led into her tent, where her mother greeted me with smiles and gestured for me to sit down. With absolutely no words exchanged, I felt safe and welcomed. Perhaps they were used to spotting travelers and craved meeting new people? The mother pointed to the few things she has in her tent, very proud of her two silver pots and mugs over the fire. She set a bowl in front of me with clear liquid and some type of equivalent to ramen noodles. Her daughter began to play with my hair slipping out of my hijab, and the mother smiled at me as if it was alright to untuck it since it was just us 3 women. Our breakfast consisted of sign language and many smiles and giggles. When I left, I poorly drew a world map in the sand and pointed to where I was from. I’m pretty sure they had no recognition, and it was then that I realized people with absolutely nothing are often times happier and more welcoming than those privileged.

     On International Women’s Day, I just wanted to share the short story of remembering this woman who opened her “tent” to me, served me soup as we signed our way through breakfast in the middle of the Western Sahara Desert. No matter where in the world women come from, they are my sisters. I support them, love them and wish to see us unite globally to nurture our planet and humanity as a whole. If you think of a special woman today, tell her how appreciated she is.

      Whoever you are, kind Berber nomad of the Sahara, this goes out to you and your genuine womanly spirit.

Alexandra Martinez