How to say hello in the desert

The ritual of greeting is one of the most consistent in rich culture of the Moroccan Sahara. For an European exchanging a dozen or so adverbs with the same meaning may seem long and unnecessary, but for a nomad it’s absolutely crucial to start any further conversation.

How to say hello in the desert

There are numerous words and expressions to say you are all right. It’s actually not only about you as a person, it’s more general – like doing magic to keep the reality positive, putting a good spell on it. It’s not really possible to have negative thoughts after repeating fifteen times that everything is ok, is it?

What I – as a European – find odd, is that nomads not necessarily look into others’ eyes while exchanging greetings. Often they just look into space somewhere next to their companion. What’s important though, and everybody does it, is to place right hand on the heart.
Here are some words to express that everything is ok:

  • Salamat
  • Labas
  • Bikhir
  • Mzyan
  • Hamdullah
  • Hanya
  • Msekna

Of course, these words follow traditional “salam” or “salam alejkum”, to which you answer accordingly: “alejkum salam”, or, less formal – just “salam”.