When travelling on the tramway in Morocco I always got the felling of entering a different world. Inaugurated one year ago, it is the public service’s pride. At least in the two towns where it has been set: Rabat, Morocco’s capital, and Casablanca, its financial heart.
The tramway is still so shiny that while travelling towards Aïn Diab Beach we crossed four ghost stations, left sleeping in the middle of nowhere while Casablanca’s urban development reaches them. The railway stretching for kilometres over a semi-abandoned landscape, while the elegant voice calls the next station, first in Arabic and then in French.
Casablanca’s beach is an endless sparkling expanse dotted by two old lighthouses and limited by the Corniche and Marabout de Sidi Abderrahmane Island. Sun and clouds are reflected on the sand, constantly stroked by the Atlantic Ocean, which later reflects also the intense colours of sunset. ‘Morocco’s most beautiful sunset’, say the local kids, so naively in love with their town.
Over this stretch of lights and moist reflections the boys play football. There are so many of them you may wonder how they manage not to collide against each other the whole time. Now and then a tourist gets talked into taking a ride on horse or mule, the families find shelter under the beach umbrella and him, Kamal, rides the waves.
Kamal Harboula, ex national surf champion, founder of his own surfing school Casa Surfhouse, the skin tainted by the sun, the ever smiling gaze, the bristly beard. While telling me he is ‘already’ 43 he laughs without a hint of concern in his eyes: ‘I had fun my whole life, then I started building something for the future in the field I love… I don’t feel old at all!’
Kamal discovered surfing when he was 13. He used to go on holiday with his parents to the north of Morocco and to watch the French people challenging the sea on their boards. He kept watching without doing nothing for eight years. Then, once done with school, he worked in a factory to raise the money for his first surfboard. Five years later he was Morocco’s surf champion. ‘Because I did nothing the whole time but surfing, every day.’
Now his passion is to teach to the others. ‘First of all with the new kids we talk about the sea and how to respect it. Then comes playtime: all kids love the water, if you leave them free they will necessarily come to love the sea.’
Every morning, before starting classes, Kamal and his people clean the beach. They pick up papers, plastic bottles and all the trash left by the careless visitors the day before. Then they jump in the sea, and Kamal doesn’t save a moment from following his kids but for the time of prayers.
Among his pupils there are even some girls. ‘At the beginning it wasn’t easy to reassure the parents about allowing their daughters to surf. Here in Morocco people think all surfers are a gang of alcoholics and drug users. But through time I managed to earn their trust.’
Every year for his birthday, in May, Kamal organizes a free surfing tournament for all boys and girls, with trophies and great fun. The present for himself is ‘to share the sea and the beach with all my friends’.