The Kindness of Strangers: A Tale of fate and fortune in Morocco’s Conservative South

I recently read the amazing Lonely Planet book called The Kindness of Strangers: Tales of Fate and Fortune on the Road by Don George. It’s a wonderful collection of real-life stories by travellers who encountered random acts of kindness on the road to anywhere, often in strangest of circumstances and certainly never expected or required. Sometimes, unfortunately these wonderful acts of kindness get lost in negative situations that arise when on the road as world travelers, or get muddled by negative news stories that skew people’s perception of a country and its people. But after reading these real-life incredible examples of pure kindness, it is no exaggeration to say it has the power, on the most negative of days, to restore our very faith in humanity. It also made me think of my own tales of fate and fortune. We all have them. But we often don’t get our chance to publish them. So here we go …

Along the years, across continents, cultural barriers, and foreign languages, I have experienced many random acts of kindness by strangers who didn’t know me … and shouldn’t care what happens to me. And yet they did. They cared so much that they went out of their way to help me communicate in a foreign language, order food, take a bus, find my hostel, or personally take me to my destination. We often call these acts random – but for the person acting, they are anything but. They are purposeful; they are thoughtful. But for the recipient, they are random. Why? Because we did nothing to deserve these acts of kindness by complete strangers. Countless of such “random” acts have warmed my heart on so many adventures I’ve embarked on. One, in particular, stands out.

My husband and I arrived by domestic flight from Casablanca to the so-called “dusty” southern town of Goulimime, a stop-over to connect to our real destination: the beautiful laid-back Sidi Ifni and the towering natural stone arches of Legzira Plage (one of which sadly collapsed shortly after our visit). It was officially our 3rd day in Morocco, on our first trip to the African continent. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say we were still trying to get our bearings. Due to price and logistics, our rational side decided to head to the less visited south immediately, then explore the more touristy destinations of Marrakesh, Fez, and, of course, the incredible Sahara Desert. Sure it would’ve been ideal to go to Marakesh first, get a feel for the country and then head off the beaten path. But in the end, it’s all the same right? What could go wrong?

Beautiful, relaxed seaside town of Sidi Ifni in Southern Morocco

We landed at the airport and followed all the locals off the plane. We were the only tourists, surprisingly, as Lonely Planet had suggested the Spanish colonial seaside town of Sidhi Ifni, painted in blue and white, was the hidden gem of Morocco. Turns out it was so hidden, we were the only tourists flying there at that time of year, on a plane filled with locals. We had planned to take a cab to the city then a shared taxi to our oceanside destination.

Except … there were no cabs. This area was a military zone.

Everyone around us suddenly looked at us funny. Why are they there, they seemed to be wondering.

Before we could start to put together plan B, the airport security officers were already in action. They randomly found a middle-aged local couple (fellow passengers from the plane) to escort us by car into the city. We assume, they had no choice but to take us orphan travelers who had no other options. The car was awkwardly silent as we drove out of the military zone, and onto the highway. But once out of the security zone, our drivers suddenly relaxed and started chatting with us, realizing my husband was fluent in French (the second language of Morocco). They quickly realized we were decent people, and we ended up getting an invitation to their home for lunch, a large plate of the most traditional Moroccan food in the middle of the table for us to all share. We met their cute children, and the wife generously gifted me traditional Moroccan dress.

We never saw them again. The beauty of the encounter, it seems, was that they knew we were just passerbys in their life, but despite this, they were willing to help, to share their culture and home, to share their food, and to share their time.

We spent 3 weeks in Morocco, and traveled all the corners of the country. But as it stands, this encounter in the conservative south, just a little farther than most tourists dare to venture, was the most memorable of all. Through this family’s kindness we didn’t just ride camels in the great Sahara Desert, shop at colorful souks (markets) in Marrakesh on our trip to Morocco. We didn’t just eat good couscous, and take beautiful pictures of the most famous sights. Through a random encounter with a local family, we saw the heart of Morocco.

We need to remember these random acts of kindness. When we turn on the news, we only see negative. But the world is filled with beauty and kindness. Like everything else, it takes practice.

We need to practice to act with kindness, and just as much, we need to practice remembering the kindness of others.

What random act of kindness have you experienced? Feel free to share in the comments below!

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