Tahir Shah, an Anglo-Afghan author who lives with his family in Casablanca, Morocco, follows in his father’s footsteps as a collector of stories, and it’s no wonder his book In Arabian Nights was one of Time Magazine’s 10 Best Books of the Year when it was published in 2009.
The Tale of the Sands
Once there was a stream, a lovely, cool, clear stream. It was created from melted snow in the high mountains, and flowed down through all kinds of rock, until one morning it reached the desert.
The stream was worried, but it knew its destiny was to cross the sand, so it called out What am I to do?” And the desert answered, “Listen, O stream! The wind crosses my sands, and you can, too.”
The stream didn’t listen. He let his water roll forward. The first drops disappeared without a trace.
“Desert, Desert,” he called, “You are sucking me up!”
The desert was old and wise and grew angry at the foolish young stream. “Of course I am sucking you up,” replied the desert, “because that’s what deserts do. I can’t change. Please listen to me and allow yourself to be absorbed into the wind.”Tahir Shah, In Arabian Nights, A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams
“The stream was too hot-headed to listen. He had his pride and was happy being who he was. “I am a stream,” he shouted, “and I want to stay a stream.”
The sand, growing in impatience, replied, “O foolish stream! You must throw yourself into the wind and you will fall as rain. Your droplets will cross mountains and oceans, and you will be far greater than you are now. Please listen to my words!”
The stream did not believe the sand and cried, “Desert, Desert, how can I be sure you speak the truth?”
The desert rose up in a sandstorm and called, “Trust me, O young stream, and think back. Surely you can recall being in another form.”
The stream thought hard, its waters swirling as its memory worked. Then, gradually, it did remember…it remembered a time when it was something else.
“Let yourself rise up!” cried the desert, “up and up into the wind!”
The stream did as the sands ordered, and let himself rise in a curtain of mist, until he was absorbed in the wind. It felt wonderful, and right, as if it was meant to be…
And that is how the stream which is life continues…and why the tale of its great journey is written in the sands.
A Cultural Panorama
Tahir Shah explores Casablanca and the hinterlands of Morocco, seeking not only stories and storytellers, but a special salt for use at a friend’s wedding. The salt of the book is the variety of stories and storytellers, all of them vignettes within the story of Moroccan culture told by a master storyteller.
Journeys with Tahir Shah
His 2011 collection entitled TRAVELS WITH MYSELF is a body of work as varied and as any, with reportage pieces as diverse as the women on America’s Death Row, to the trials and tribulations of his encounter in a Pakistani torture jail.
His other works include an epic quest through Peru’s cloud forest for the greatest lost city of the Incas (HOUSE OF THE TIGER KING), as well as a journey through Ethiopia in search of the source of King Solomon’s gold (IN SEARCH OF KING SOLOMON’S MINES). Previous to that, Shah published an account of a journey through the Amazon on the trail of the Birdmen of the Amazon (TRAIL OF FEATHERS), as well as a book of his experiences in India, as a godman’s pupil (SORCERER’S APPRENTICE).
I’m looking forward to those journeys, to Shah’s discoveries where neither I, nor most of you, can follow.