by Joan Pont Prats
My name is Joan Pont Prats and with the rest of our team we are working hard to make the upcoming Amazigh Xtri, the first extreme triathlon in Morocco, a reality.
We are very excited about this project, as it is an important addition to the story of my family’s Moroccan adventure…
When I was a kid, my parents decided to take my sister and I on a family trip to Morocco to understand the value of non-essential things. My father had a history of riding mopeds through North Africa and was one of the first pioneers to go from Spain to Algeria on a Vespa.
We learned so much on that trip, and our lives changed forever.
One afternoon we were in Arfoud, the city also known as the gateway to the desert. A cheerful young man put fuel in my parents’ vehicle at the gas station. In a clumsy, yet humorous attempt to speak Spanish he asked us where we were going. We told him we were going towards Merzouga to see the Erg Chebbi, the most significant accumulation of dunes in the region, and he immediately offered to accompany us. He told us he knew the area very well because he and his family had a café — the restaurant Des Dunes in Arfoud and a small hostel in the city of Merzouga.
But we weren’t interested in being guided. First of all, because my father had already driven the route, and secondly because the boy was young and we did not know him at all.
He insisted and eventually convinced us with his huge smile to allow him to join us. He jumped into the car without telling any of his family that he was going to be away for the night.
During the trip he offered to organize a walk with dromedaries around the dunes for us, and we accepted. Once we were on the dromedaries and about to head out with a nomad guide, the young man asked my father for the keys to his car. We thought he might have forgotten something and threw the keys to him. We were stunned when we saw him jump to the car and drive off, disappearing with all of our belongings. My mother almost had a nervous breakdown because she thought the car had been stolen from right under our noses.
We tried to communicate with the nomad owner of the dromedaries, but he didn’t understand anything we were saying. His reply to us was simply a big smile.
We spent three anxious hours riding the dromedaries through the dunes until we reached a settlement of the Hamelia people. The first thing we saw was our family car, washed and in perfect condition. What the young man had done was to take the car to the end of the route and clean it to get a tip. The problem was that he didn’t tell us. Sometimes communication can be a burden.
The people from Hamelia treated us exceptionally — they made us feel unique and gave us unexplained sensations.
To show them gratitude for everything they did for us we came back the following year with friends and brought school materials, clothes, and other things to give to the families, and we contacted the young guy from the gas station again, his name is Tayeb.
Every Easter we would go to this part of the country, every time with more people to share the experience with friends and families. The relationship between my father and Tayeb was, and still is, very strong, and one day he proposed to my father to collaborate and build a small hotel with some rooms on the outskirts of Arfoud. It was a kind of symbolic contribution to the progress of the area that had given so much hospitality to our family and where Tayeb had lived all of his life.
Today we are able to let tourists also savour the “magic” of the country and the affection of its people. Our family business has a large group of companies and hotels that are an excellent resource for more than 300 local families.
None of this would have been possible if Tayeb and his entire family weren’t extraordinary people with huge hearts and a wonderful sense of hospitality that infected us. It gave us the desire to show Morocco to others.
Sometimes things that you weren’t looking for, find you, and if you allow yourself to follow your heart, they will rarely end badly.
After more than 20 years in the country and with the same exact attitude of humbleness and effort that brought us here, we’re very excited to have the opportunity and responsibility to organize the first extreme triathlon in Africa and become part of the Xtri Family.
The Amazigh Xtri will take place as an Xtri world Tour Prospect Race on October 31st 2020