“Ordinary people with extraordinary stories”
Morocco is high on my Bucket List of places I need to see and, thanks to the miracle of the social media, I’ve recently been connecting with a lot of Moroccan tour guides. They’re such a great source of information about the country as I research my upcoming trip. One of these amazing tour guides has also become a great source of inspiration.
A few months ago I wrote “Bucket List Guilt – and why I’m one of the lucky ones”, realizing how blessed I am to have been born into a life that allowed and encouraged big dreams. When I met Houssaine, I was reminded once again of how lucky I really am. Houssaine is a man who was not born “a lucky one” but he still dares to dream big and has the motivation and passion to make it happen.
I think his story will inspire others to keep on dreaming!
Where are you from, Houssaine?
“I live in Tounfite, a town (village) in Midelt Province, Draa-Tafilalet. It is a high remote town in the beautiful Middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco. I lead a very simple life with my parents and four brothers and four sisters in our basic family home.”
You were unlucky as a child and were stricken with polio. How have you dealt with that?
“At the age of three I caught polio, and since that time I have been paralyzed in my legs, and need to use braces and crutches for walking. But since I have grown up with this handicap I do not let it slow me down. I enjoy playing football, trekking and swimming. I am also a keen chess player and like music and spending time on the mountain trails that surround my home. Polio has affected my legs but not mind, my heart, or my passion!”
Do Moroccan schools offer programs for disabled kids or did you attend a “regular” school?
“Thankfully, I was sponsored by foster parents from the United Kingdom and was educated in a special institution called “École Ibn al-Baytar” at Khemisset, which was run at that time by the British welfare fund Save the Children.
“I went on to college in Khemisset City , and then continued my education in Itzer a small town closer to my home. I have a BA in Modern Art, and a diploma in Informatics Management, a specialized diploma in Informatics Development. I am also a natural and self-taught linguist and speak Tamazight (the Chleuh Amazigh dialect), Arabic, English, French and basic Dutch.”
Wow! I speak only one language fluently and sometimes struggle with that! I have such admiration for bilingual people, or in your case, multilingual!
In recent years, I’ve done a lot of volunteer work with disabled kids in Haiti, where the disabled have few options and remain somewhat hidden. What’s it like in Morocco?
“Unfortunately many Moroccan companies still discriminate against the disabled, but I am campaigning to change this at the government level by raising awareness of the difficulties faced by disabled Moroccans in the workforce.”
Besides changing laws and raising awareness, what are your plans?
“My hope is to develop my own viable tourism business by providing information on accessible holidays for disabled people and persons with reduced mobility.”
I actually had that dream when I was in college. My cousin and I talked about starting a travel service for disabled people…and you’re actually doing it!
“Last year I started the Disabled Tourist Guide website to offer assistance to all tourists, both disabled and able bodied, who wish to travel to Morocco. I am also using my networking skills to build up a community so I can help disabled tourists enjoy the parts of Morocco they would not normally get to see. Our mission is to develop and champion disabled led tourism in Morocco.”
“I am a professional sightseeing guide who specializes in tours for clients with a disability. I can also accommodate able-bodied guests but my true goal as a guide is to develop and spread awareness about disabled-led tourism in Morocco. Since I was born and raised in the Tounfite area I am very knowledgeable about the mountains and landscapes of Morocco.”
So you’re changing the face of Moroccan tourism while making it accessible to all. What’s one part of Morocco that tourists should definitely NOT miss? “The best experience in Morocco is the Sahara Desert, this should not be missed. There are many things to do: Quad biking, around dunes trip by 4×4, sand-boarding, hiking over the sand dunes, camel rides, and visiting Barber villages. The nights are romantic and magnificent under the starry sky, relaxing around the bonfire sipping tea and playing music with the Berber villagers, and sleeping in beautifully decorated tents.”
Nice description of the desert! I would love to visit…hopefully soon!
Any words of advice for others with big dreams but less motivation? “My advice for anyone with a dream, know what you want to do, have a passion for it, set a goal. Everyday do what should and needs be done. It doesn’t matter where you are from, it matters where you want to go. Do not let what you cannot do be a barrier to what you can do.”
Great advice, Houssaine!
I’m so intrigued by Morocco and I’m hoping to make it there sometime next year. Seeing this beautiful, exotic, and mysterious country through the eyes of someone who knows it intimately will be so amazing! I also look forward to finally meeting an inspirational cyber-friend in person!
For more information on Houssaine’s organization, please visit