A Heartbreaker of a River

Khenifra, Morocco

For the life of me, I can’t remember when I first fell in love with the Oum Er-Rbia River, which winds its way through Khenifra, my city. Was it on one of those afternoons I spent by it with my family? Was it when I first tried out one of the delicious-tasting fish it carries? I can’t say. All I know is that I can rely on it to wash away my sorrows.

I have made a habit of standing on one of the five bridges in the city that stretch over it to just spend time reveling in the sight of it, and that’s how I met her, for she seemed to share my passion for contemplating the river. One day, I decided to approach her and struck up conversation with her. Her name was Nisreen, she was a high school student and she lived close to the river.

One tempestuous winter night, the river bursted its banks, the water level soared until reaching the houses’ ground level and the owners of the over-flooded residences were woken up by the lively dances their furniture pieces were performing in their living rooms. The downpour was so heavy that the power of the whole city had to be cut off. It even knocked down one of the city’s bridges, which fell into the river.

It also destroyed Nisreen’s house, which forced her family to make the difficult decision of leaving the city and moving to the countryside. I didn’t want her to leave and therefore be compelled to say goodbye to her extended family, but there was nothing I could do to avoid it. It didn’t take long for me to start missing her, so one day, I called her parents and asked them to allow her to spend the holidays with me and my family.

She was granted permission and, when the holidays finally arrived, she joined us to go to the house we own by the beach. Most of the time she spent with us she devoted to blankly gazing at the sea. One day, she said to me, “I had never really stopped to think about how much strength water can gather. The sea stretches to where the eye can see, and that roar! It’s hard to believe the sea is mostly made of water. Watching the tides I am reminded of the ghosts of my past, which always come back to haunt me.”

After the holidays, she returned to her studies and I, to my work, but we still kept in touch over the phone. One day, I suggested she come spend the holidays with me in the countryside, which is where my workplace lies. She agreed and came to see me. After just a few days, she opened up to me and told me that the place had stolen her heart. Apparently, she felt like the countryside helped her relax. She had been able to enjoy nature and loved the feeling of having the sun shine directly on her, for, in the city, she felt like it was always hiding behind tall buildings. Suddenly, however, she said that she felt there was something missing.

“Where do the animals quench their thirst and with what water do the people around here keep the lush vegetation of the area alive?” she asked.

“The water here comes from a well,” I answered.

“Would you mind showing it to me?”

“Of course not!”

We went to the well and she leaned over it, only to find the water lying very far away. Her face clouded and she said she needed to return to the city the following day. She didn’t tell me the reason behind her decision to cut her trip short, but I knew she missed waking up every morning, looking out the window and seeing the river.


Written by Zine Alabidin Sana.