The Simplicity of Words Series: Part I (Poems of Agaila Abba)

The Saharawi Tea Ceremony

“Salam Aliukum,” she said

With a smile as she greeted her guests

She got up to reach for her tea set

Offering the warmest of hospitality

As she sat to get the tea ready

Her warmness filled the room 

With her colorful Melfaha and hands dipped in henna

She is the leader of them all

The beauty of beauty

She represents the strength of every Saharawi woman

She is the mother of the nation who’s history 

She has engraved in her heart

As she got ready for the sacred tea ceremony

She turned to her guests with the following question; “Do you know the meaning of each round of tea?”

They responded, “No, but please enlighten us with your wisdom.”

She took the first small glass and filled it with black tea leaves, and then responded with seriousness, “The first round is bitter like life. When that bitterness hits us we must search for courage and strength, so we can overcome each obstacle with grace.”

Then she took the second glass and filled it with sugar. With a smile she then explained with the following; “The second round is sweet like love. Remember love can come in every form and shape, so that we can love and be loved.”

Lastly, she took the third one and filled it with foam and tea. Then with a calm voice she said, “The third is soft like death. Remember, my dears, life is short, make sure to live it to the fullest.”

That how she began the long hours of the Saharawi tea ceremony.


I was walking through the streets of Tindouf

Lost, looking for my uncle’s house

When, I was stopped by a young Algerian boy

“Bent Bladi, Why are you crying?”

“I am lost,” I responded

“Ah, inti Saharawiya?”

“How did you know?” I asked

“Your Arabic accent, who are you looking for?”

“My uncle’s house”

I gave him my family name, and then he smiled at me

He took my hand, and walked me through the chaos of the streets and shops

Then knocked at a familiar house, my uncle then answered, “Thanks God we found you”

“By the way, my name is Ahmed; your cousin is my best friend”

I smiled at him and exchanged my name. A week passed by and I didn’t see Ahmed

Then one morning as I was playing outside with my cousin, he appeared to share his favorite Algerian sweets. A visit became two visits, and by the third visit we had become friends. Then summer came and I decided that Tindouf was a good place to spend the summer. That summer, Ahmed and I were inseparable. We would tell stories to each other and exchange different words in our different dialects.

Summer ended, and I had to go back to the refugee camps. He stayed behind. As the car was driving away, Ahmed stood there waving, tears in his eyes. I kept looking, until I lost him from my sight. 

A week passed by. Then a month, then years passed by and we lost contact, until an unexpected visitor came to the camps looking for me. He said “Hi, I am Ahmed.” I was happy to see him so changed and grown up, we talked for hours until dawn. The next morning he had to go back to the city, one meeting ended in a lifetime friendship.

Note: Tindouf is located in southern Algeria as well as the Saharawi refugee camps.

The Daughter of the Desert

I am the daughter of the desert

I was born in the heart of Sahara in Algeria

Simplicity is my expertise

Humility is my garment

Kindness is my best friend

Beauty and strength is the right hand of my mother

The warmest of hospitality is the corner stone of our house 

I am the daughter of the desert

The legend of my ancestors trace back to Western Sahara 

Speak Life to Western Sahara in Bullets 

· Western Sahara is the forbidden land; yet, the warmness of her people stole my heart. 

· My people, my people hold tide, surely justice will prevail.

· Morocco might deny my Saharawi existence, yet it can’t erase my history or the fact that Western Sahara’s name is engraved in the deepest part of my soul. 

· I long for the deepest conversation under the moon and stars in the dunes of Tindouf. 

· I long for a place to belong, a home to call home, a country to write its name in the palm of my hands, a flag to wave, an anthem to proudly sing, and an independence day to celebrate. But overall, I long for my beloved land, Western Sahara. 

· I’m Saharawi; I walk barefoot with a naked soul and a transparent heart. 

· We all wish to see Western Sahara, because it is the only land for which we were are willing to fight.

· Let’s spend the summer in Western Sahara. 

· I dream of walking on the beach of Layooun in the mornings and the afternoon, or to drink tea while watching its sunset. 

· I look for the familiar taste and smell in every corner of the globe, so I can find my loved one in them. I have failed massively and have I realized that Tindouf is the only place where I can find them both their aroma and love. 

· I can’t stand to hear a Moroccan call me another Moroccan like him or her, because I take great pride in who I am, a simple Saharawi. 

· Run little Saharawi princess, because you deserve the freedom to smile and dance so that all your sorrows will fade way. Speak and let everything out so you can find your voice and become the strongest of women. Be free, be you. 

· Saharawi women, the pride of Western Sahara and the bridge of liberty.

· I am Saharawi, born in a land that is not mine, but every night Western Sahara land whispers my name. 

Agaila Abba is a writer and poet specializing 
in North African and Middle Eastern affairs. 
She is also the editor of Aloha Arabia blog. 
Find her tweeting @Agailita