*about friendship, the sahara & support friends*

it started when I was in the age of 13 with a book, a gift given by a friend of my family to me; a story about a young woman who went one day to the middle of the Sahara, discovering her family history and the Tuareg culture. I was fascinated from the first page of the book, mainly the description of the colours and the culture but also sad reading about how governments force the free nomades to settle down in suburb areas of desert cities and villages or refugee camps to try get them "under control". In this this time also the first words of tamasheq, the language of the Tuareg have been marked like a tattoo in my mind, I was always curious about to listen the sound of the spoken words one day....! Every book I found, I bought and read again and again...and again....occupy the mind with sahara desert!

my first flight to Morocco years ago, the nose sticking like glued at the small airplane window, a small stripe of red sahara dust had been seen in the clouds over the Atlas mountains....I wished to fly by magic carpet, to take a look behind, to fly the middle of the desert. In the same time I discovered the music of the desert, first Toumast, Tinariwen, moroccan and Gnaoua music, step by step my mind got more and more occupied.

one day in Morocco, I made the decision to travel to the middle in the nowhere, a 12 hour bus ride to Merzouga close the algerian borderline, I sat on the dunes and felt like a magnet is pushing me forward to the middle, a not easy to explain in words feeling which confuses me much in this time; sky watching and a feeling of cozy wrapped like in a blanket made from warm and soft wool.

another day I runned in facebook into a group *life in the desert* I like! and the life started changing, the founder of the group added me as admin and sent me friendship request, during the past years we became really good friends. How to communicate with a young, libyan Tuareg who do not speak your language und you do not speak his language, oh dear! We used a long time only a few words "I send you smile" and "I send you smile back" until I discovered how to use google translator in a way that a sentence is making sense, too....aaaah! My friend also opened for me the door to another world, to his world and the real life in the desert, within the past past years I meet nearly all of my online friends sooner or later offline and in reality.
the day came and the life in the desert was not anymore only seen on my computer screen, I arrived after a 16 hours travel time from Germany to Algeria in the middle of Sahara, alone! 3 weeks travel & walk in the desert changed my life completely, the ones who went into the desert are never the same when they come out....and...online friends became dear and close friends.

the "arab spring" started the day of my Algeria flight, I had no idea about what´s going on in the world until I came back home to Germany, then.... 3 weeks later the revolution in Libya started, the internet had been cutted off and I tried to keep contact to my libyan friends through other friends and sometimes...well...very "creative" ways....I nearly felt off the chair one day when I received a call from the libyan embassy in Niger, a friend of a friend worked there and tried to make me believe that "everything is quiet" in Libya...well....ok! I also remember that I spoke last summer in skype with a friend, he listened my voice but I do not heard him because of the very slow internet connection in the desert, so I talked into silence, he wrote back to me and both of us felt happy that we talked after months to each other. I am still thankful that all my friends and the families are fine, one by one they came back online end of last year when the internet found the way back to southern Libya.

now, within the past few weeks dear friends became refugees, they escaped out the violence in Mali. The situation actually is more than worse, more than complicated it is a nightmare! I remember the words of a musician friend, we had a long talk end of last year "we will not stop fighting until we can live a life in freedom, peace and dignity".

we living in a world where money is more worth than a human life,  it is just a matter of money why govermments treating especially indigenous people all over the world in such a bad way, not only in the Sahara. How could it be that for example Niger is still the 3rd poorest country in the world but one of the most important countries for uranium export? Mali is the 3rd largest gold producer in Africa, the situation in the country is the same, one of the poorest countries in the world.....because of a very few global players and the money!

watch the real life situation of the Tuareg in the Sahara here
watch this Human Rights Watch report about children gold mining in Mali here
watch a german report about uranium mining in Niger here
watch a french report about malian refugees in Burkina Faso here
see here pictures of refugees who flee the violence in Mali

watch the footage (in tamasheq language) of refugees in the village of Tinzaouaten (Algeria,Mali borderline) here this shows a small amount of support with daily basic food organized by private help; the main problem especiall in this area and also in Bordj Badj Mokthar area in Algeria is that official humanitarian help still not reached the refugees, there is an urgent need for more private help!!

so, what we can do now? we can give a voice to the ones who suffering and the ones who fighting for a life in freedom, peace and dignity, it doesn´t matter in which part of the world; most of us having friends all over the world through social networks who may living right now in similar situations. I have friends in the Sahara so I do support them within my possiblities.

do it now, for your friends wherever you live and wherever your friends are living, friends are part of our daily life even in the online world!

image: petra hassan

P.S.: I know....my writing changed within the past few weeks but support my friends is also a part of my life between germany, morocco and the sahara desert!


*a day with Tamikrest*

on a rainy, greyish december day in Berlin, I am waiting in front of the Philharmonie for Tamikrest, the Touareg band from Mali. In my hands a small moroccan basket filled with a gas cooker, a blue enamel teapot, green tea, sugar and small teaglasses; it´s the last day of the fall/winter europe tour for my friends and I am happy to join the day and the evening concert with them.
The first question after welcoming "do you have everything for tea with you"?...."yes"! :-) their gas cooker got lost somewhere in the nowhere in europe within the past few days on the tour; bittersweet & foamy green tea is essential in the life of sahara nomads, even here in germany :-)
the concert in the Philharmonie will be different than past concerts of Tamikrest. The evening will be hosted and presented by Roger Willemsen and his worldmusic series, also accompanied by the mongolian nomad band Huun Huur Tu.
we entered the backstage area, first of all it is time for *desert tea*, Wounu the singer is preparing delicious green tea and all of us talking salad language mixed from arabic, french and tamasheq, the Tuareg language... waiting for the soundcheck.
in between soundcheck and the concert we take the time all together for a short funny shopping trip nearby. Sparkling pre-christmas decoration everywhere, a cameraman is following us, two umbrellas; rainy and windy weather in Berlin. After we returning my friends start preparing the concert, bright & colourful traditional dresses and turbans showing up, they really looking gorgeous, the sons and the daughter of the sahara desert!
the concert hall is filled, time for the concert! *yay* whilest searching for my seat I meet finally Karsten, the feed magazin editior the first time offline and not online :-)
ready for the concert?! Mysterious, fascinating sound on the ears! Guitar music in the air like precious, shimmering pearls on a string and the magical rythm of the desert; Roger Willemsen is talking about the life in the desert and Christian Brückner  -he´s also the synchron voice speaker of Robert de Niro- beautiful Tuareg poetry.
after a short break we continue travelling to Mongolia, flying on a colourful, magic carpet  with Huun Huur Tu. The truly fascinating sound carry all of us far away from Berlin to the wide, mongolian grasslands, music like a thunderstorm and a "cozy wrapped in a yurt made from felted wool" feeling, racing horses and falcons in the sky.
finally Tamikrest and Huun Huur Tu playing the last song of the evening all together, I know that they meet the day before first time but they playing music like they gave concerts all together before many times, it is truly fantastic! What a great final evening of their european concert tour for my friends, standing ovations and a big, lucky smile showing up in all faces! :-)
the next day... late morning at the airport; my friends taking the next plane via Paris back to the Sahara, we are saying good bye, see you soon and *ar assaghat* in tuareg language. A big *thank you*tanemert hullan* Tamikrest for a wonderful day and closing concert. As soon as I came back home, we are meeting again in the online world, it doesn´t matter that the connection is like a sandstorm between the sahara and my computer :-)

check out the website of  Tamikrest from Mali here and find the music of Huun Huur Tu from Mongolia here *enjoy*

images: petra hassan for tamikrest

P.S.: read the german version of my article for the feed magazin here