A Journey in the Desert
Note: This novel is a fiction. Some elements are made up and added to historical and accurate bits in order to get a drama effect.
Noon is still far away, but the heat was already unbearable. Sweat was running down like tear-drops. He felt he was sinking in his broad cloak. His hand was sweating even more, for the semi-automatic rifle he was holding was slowly turning into a hot stick. It grew painful, but right now, he had other things to worry about. It is the beginning of the year, his fellow troopers are about to cross the desert, and his task as a recon leader is crucial, for he needs to find causeways and avoid to draw attention. Speed, stealth and secrecy are the key.
Today is a hot day, and the five men-strong party he was leading had to cross an open field by midday. open field is a bit of an understatement: over there, everything within dozens of miles is an open field, occasionally bounded by some deep ridge or some misty wadi. He briefly looked back at the high mountains he left behind, were he came from, where he left his family for the unknown.
His immediate plans were more down to earth: To his left, an old rift was wide and deep enough to provide a cover for the column following him. He reckoned it would take him half a day to get there, so he pressed hard on his camel to quicken the pace. The ground was a bit rocky, it abated his impatience a bit to get to his aim. He unloaded his gear, dropped his burnuous and carefully fold it in his haversack, adjusted his turban then verified his rifle. The walk was going to be tough.
Ayour was not at his first major expedition. A couple of years ago, he fought in the Rif against the French and the Spanish garrisons there. It was not the first time he had to lead a reconnaissance party, nor was it the first time to fire off live rounds at people. In facts, the poor peasant from the anti-atlas he was before 1952, has little in common with the tall soldier he is now. Even though he retained the same old wretched djellaba, his stature was leaner albeit more muscular. As a member of the Moroccan Liberation army, he learnt self-reliance, days-long fasting and considerable endurance.
His fellow soldiers were, too, mountaineers that enrolled in the MLA. The illiterate Ayour joined with a somewhat simplistic opinion of the political map: he had to fight for those he felt were supporting justice against the local Caid. He knew little but what his commander tells him of the broad issues. He was not very bright, but had a deep sense of duty that allowed him to move fast among the rank and file; The poor shepherd was now in charge of a recon squad, and as such, he was the vital eye the MLA staff needed for their moves. The early days of January 1957 were quite different from the previous years. The joyful and leafy rif mountains were no longer, and the more the MLA moved south, the higher the temperature was and the drier the surroundings were.
The desert, with its tortured rocky ground and its snake-shaped paths was laying before him when he got his party on the top of the ridge. He could see the whole valley and beyond. His fellows were equal to him in his mixed sense of relief and confusion: relief because the column causeway was secured, and confused, because he felt it was going to be a different kind of war. A war of mobility far beyond human physical strength. A war not for villages or cities, but for oasis, tribes and ridges. A war that is going to be fought too in the cosy palaces between well educated and well behaved people.
The sunset was near. To the untrained eye, the void it presume the desert is slowly reveals itself to be full of life. Some desert rats awkwardly showed their tiny heads out of their invisible lairs for some food or water. The birds that remained silent and absent during the day started to cruise the skies, and the little swallows, sensing the heat was abating, start getting out of their nests, describing gracious geometrical shapes on the beautifully clear purple-and-blue sky
Ayour reported back by radioing to his boss. The quiet night gradually was disturbed by the discordant of a thousand camels, loaded with ammunitions, supplies, food and rations for the thousand MLA soldiers. From a stage shaped like an altar, Ayour saw a stormy column of dust by the North-East. This lot, his lot, was out to inflict havoc and damage to the weak Spanish garrisons disseminated along the coast. His boss confirmed that commando-style operations were enough to disrupted already crippled Spanish communications, and hopefully, put them in a situation such that hey would agree to a truce, or even an agreement on partial or total withdrawl. The whole of the Rio De Oro would therefore comes back to the fatherland. Perhaps even the faraway shores of Senegal rivers would come back to Morocco. The distant news that were broadcasted on the national radio confirmed his feelings: the colonialists were pulling back, in Egypt, in Vietnam, France had lots to do in Algeria, and the Spaniards are willing to let off a bit of steam on their Saharan outposts.
– “Radio command, tell them the way is clear all West of us. There is no rush, no enemy recon flight spotted” Ayour asked. The radio, a youthful worker from Casablanca that joined the MLA in order to escape the Istiqlal political police.
– “8ya li mat3aed ya Chef. Were do you think they would takes next? ” replied gleefully the radio
– “I don’t know a weldi. Only l’Fqih knows what to do. In any case, we will have to bring the M’hamid l’Ghizlan somehow to follow us. For the time being, we have bigger fishes to fry, ok ?”