The Ones Who Built Us


One thing that really stands out about the Saharawi people is the unity of their families across generations. Often building their homes as near to their relatives as possible, families have close connections with their extended members. Children learn from and are cared for by several of the generations before. A building block for these sturdy relationships is the respect that Saharawis faithfully show to their elders and the desire they feel to serve them through the rest of their lives.

Respect is so foundational to these relationships that one woman told me, “Without respect, you have nothing. There is not anything better than respect.” Not only is respect for elders something that is required in Islam, but Saharawis see it as what they owe their elders for everything they have been given. They credit the elder generations for not only raising them, teaching them right from wrong, and nurturing them – but for building their society.

Practically, this respect has two aspects. On one hand, respecting elders includes taking care of them as they age, especially family members. Parents and grandparents are a special part of the family’s life and young adults do all they can to make sure they are well-provided for and comfortably included in daily family life. The other side of this respect includes gestures such as standing when they enter, touching their head when greeting, and serving them the best tea and food, as well as avoiding things that might be trivial or inappropriate in their presence.

Elder Saharawis occupy a revered place in their society as younger people are keen to remember those who built them up to be who they are today, and those who have faithfully passed their culture to them, from generation to generation.

Post By: Heather Jost, February 11, 2020

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