Conversation with Lalla-Mahbouba

      Mahbouba is a Saint woman venerated by

        my peoplethe shrine of  whom is in my native land.

       Lalla is a form of  reverence when calling some much

        respected women in the family or in the tribe.

 

Note: Highlighted words are explained in the lexicon at the end of this page.

                

My steps were brave keeping the pace while the heat of August summer was topping the sky. There was a mixture of thirst and dryness chocking up my throat, and my tongue kept on trying to come to my rescue. Everything around was so silent and only the noise of my feet was keeping me company. The trail, carved by the flow of the years, snaked in front of me, as I was swept away by my thoughts while the heat of my sweat was steaming from all around my neck. I took up for a glance to the far above to what covered my sight, and I could see the roof of my beloved home shining high to the brightest. My feet, pushed by the impatient that I was, went up speeding the count in a hurry, while my heart was carried away by an immense joy that invaded my chest. She is there and her roof is waving so bright. She is there the mother of the braves. She is there my Lalla-Mahbouba, my true mother of all the time. When you live without mother, you learn to find her in everything you love. 

The outside of the walls, washed by the waves of the many droughts, is still keeping a dim white look of pride. The roof metal sheets, color of my lost destiny, are still holding the word, lifting our brave mountains above the beyond. The temple of Lalla-Mahbouba is now here, and I am in front of it; the icon of my tribe is still alive, and I am now part of it.

As a came to step in through the gate, something attracted my attention. Marks of hands covered with Henna were left on each side of the entrance; they were left by my beloved Lalla. Following the sacred tradition, I reached up with my lips and swept a kiss on each side; that is to write my chapter on the temple of my holy shrine and to smell the scent of my holy Mother.  

When I went inside the temple’s sole room, a fresh atmosphere embodied me. The Mother was hugging her prodigy after all these long years and I was so delighted. Once my eyes could clear up the light of the outside and distinguish the objects in the middle of the dimness, I could see a majestic form occupying the other side of the room. The tomb of Lalla-Mahbouba stood up in front of me, filling the time with its presence. A sensation of deep respect and holiness overwhelmed my body, as my lungs were inhaling the perfume coming from the multitude of green and white blankets that covered the grave. Sitting on the left side of the place, I could see that just by extending the left arm I could reach up and touch my Mother. I extended my legs wide apart and bulked my upper back on the stony wall. I half closed my eyes and I took up for a deep breath, since I am now home and I am safer than ever. 

 

As I was deeply sunk in my relaxation effort, suddenly the seal of the doorway slapped the wall, and radiance got conquered; the twist closed up the gate, and seclusion took the right corner of the room. The temple went quiet, and a dim light drilled through the moldy roof with scattered wavy beams. Time was kept outside, and the about is about to be. 

Silence, only silence was revolving all around, and I am now part of this parallel existence. A strange feeling of deep safety swept me from my feet, a feeling of relief poisoned my perception, and I gave up to the calmness that covered my sweating body. My heartbeat was cooling down and I could feel the relaxation climbing my lower legs. I took a blink at the tomb, while I could feel my head getting heavier. I felt asleep, and I wanted to have a nap. It is always so when you go back to your mother’s home. The first thing that you do is to lay down in your childhood corner and sleep. It is a natural human way to express the joy of feeling safe, just like when we once were inside of our Mother’s belly. I dove into a deep sleep and time went away.

 

A fresh smell of a strong perfume prickled my nose, as I came back to life while opening my eyes. I had a thought to look at the right side toward the closed door where there was nobody. I turned slowly my sleepy eyes screening the area in a panoramic motion to end up at the tomb on my left side. I saw something but I was not sure if that was the fruit of my imagination or it was indeed something. I closed and opened my eyes trying to clear them up and be able to focus on the shape in the middle of the dimness. She was there on her bed, while still resting on her left elbow. In a reflex of a random motion, I tried to correct my position to sit down in a more polite way. I could not believe it. This woman that I see now must be Lalla-Mahbouba, as only she can be of this fascinating beauty. The legend was true and in fact her beauty exceeds and by far all what I have heard about her. Her long dark hair was wrapped with a lovely green scarf that had some black decoration on its extremities. Her face was so full of life, shining with unique wonderful penetrating black eyes. From under her red blankets I could see a marveling blue sky dress ornamented with beautiful flowers that differed in shapes and colors. She seemed to come out of a very deep sleep and her eyes went on scrutinizing the surroundings. I was not able to even swallow my tongue for fear to disturb her holiness. I was fighting hard to keep my strong heartbeats under control and I could feel my heart irritating my throat. She pulled herself to the back and took with her right arm two dark brown pillows covered with golden embroidery and placed them behind her back. She adjusted her sitting position and covered herself to the waste while leaving the tail of her scarf resting on her left shoulder. She moved her hands in a slow motion to lay them in front of her and joined them in a shaking position. She put her eyes on me and her face expressed a very beautiful hidden smile. 

You came back at last. 

I was not able to whisper a word and instead I tried to swallow my tongue.  

What took you so long? Have you forgotten who you are?  

My eyes exploded with heavy tears that flooded my cheeks to join up on my chin. The words crowded my throat but none of them could make it to the free. I tried to sweep my face with my right hand while trying to catch up with my breath.  

What will be the fate of this land without its children? What voices will resonate above these mountains if everybody flees away? What people will fill these woods if not my people? Even you my Son?

I felt an overwhelming emotion warming up my heart while listening to her calm voice. She seemed whispering every word that comes out of her red marble lips and finally something moved my tongue and my voice could say something. 

Holy Lalla, you were always in my heart. 

She illuminated her corner with a brief smile and then turned her face away from me to her right side. She was gone away with her thinking and after a moment of silence she turned her face back to me. Tears were on her face and she fixed her crying eyes on me. It was a very distinct moment that kept me glued on my seat not daring to even move a finger. 

Nobody comes to visit me anymore and loneliness covered my time with a thick dust. They all went away and no one cares about this land anymore. The blessing that once was here in these mountains has turned to a silent sadness. They abandoned their roots and they removed me from their thoughts. There was a time when I was the Queen of all and my people were all around filling my world with a great joy. They used to come with their offerings and they never missed any occasion to come and enlighten my candles. The sound of their voices vanished away and I don’t hear their singing like in those golden years. Everything is so dry around my place and their horses died one after another. Where is the sound of the Gasba? Where are those Zorna melodies? The words of their Tabla hushed to eternity and the rhymes of their Bendir got buried in their lost memories. My Henna has faded away and the women of my people have dumped their pride. This wind from the east has brought a malediction to this land and El-Mehiaoui has given his last breath. My world is gone and I seek for an eternal sleep, but now you are here and life is back to me.  

My tears blinded my eyes and I was so embarrassed that I was not able to control my emotions. 

But I am here my Lalla. 

She smiled wide and moved aside leaving some space on her bed on her left side. With her left hand she taped twice on her bed in the freed spot. 

Son of my hero, please come and sit beside me. 

I was not able to move and a total confusion invaded my thoughts. How could I dare and sit beside the holy Mahbouba? I hesitated for a while when she shifted right a little more leaving more space on her left side. 

Come my Son, it has been an eternity since I saw you last time. You were a little child full of energy and I still can hear the sound of your bare feet when you used to play around. 

In a slow confused motion I brought all my parts together in an attempt to stand up. I was not able to feel my feet and could not distinguish if I was walking toward her or some mysterious power was carrying me toward her. I came out from my confusion when I felt her left arm around my shoulders. I adjusted my position so that I don’t take more space than necessary when to my extreme joy she put a kiss on my face. 

Tell me my Son, how was life with you? How did you find your way to me after all these long eternal years? 

Life took me through the worst and a Gladiator I became. My days followed a harsh stream and my nights darkened with lamentations. I went from land to land and I crossed oceans and continents. I opened my heart to the eternal hopes and I gave my ears to the words of wisdom. I turned around and met souls and fates. My world was empty and my heart full of rage. Fear played with my moments and my path went through ups and downs. Loneliness was my only companion and I was a social butterfly. It has been so many long years since I lost the meaning of the word home. The years passed by and the time circled above; the nights come and go and the days followed their stream. That little crawling rock, rocked by the tick of time, has bumped onto a place in the land of nowhere. The blink of an eye, the flash of a shining beam of memory, and a light stroke the dusk. A fragment of a smile from my cradle came to my dreams and high above the heights the sound of our cows waved from these holly mountains. From this shrine so single and unique where it all began, you my Lalla blew up a whisper in my veins. It is the color of my blood, the genes of my beloved father, and the laughter of my childhood. They all brought me here to seek for a drop of a blessing from my Lalla. 

She took a very deep breath while turning her face away to the right side and dove into some deep thoughts. She moved her left hand and gently pulled my head to make it rest on her left shoulder. Her fine hand was caressing my head while we both kept on silent listening to the shrill sounds of cicalas singing outside behind the walls of the temple. She took another long deep breath and went on talking above my head. 

Our fate is the same my Son. I myself was born and raised in a far land. My people are not your people and there among mine I was respected and venerated for my leadership. I was the bosom on which the tears were poured from the weak and the oppressed. I was the word of wisdom that guided them in their daily life. I was a Queen without castle and my voice reached the elderly and the young. My little home was the shelter of the poor and the destination of all kind of visitors. I was ruling with the words of my ancestors and my heart was open to the rich and the deprived. I gave everything and I had nothing of mine except for my blessed white horse. They venerated me and made of me a Saint all along my days among them. One night, as I was sleeping in my little room, I had a dream. It was more than a dream, it was a vision. I saw an old man wearing a white Burnous standing at the entrance of my room. His white clean beard was well maintained and his eyes were shining green just like yours. He had his right arm behind and with his left hand he was putting his weight on an olive tree stick. I asked him to come in and be among my guests but he apologized and said that he must go. He went on talking and told me that he came with a message that I have to listen to. He said that my time to go to the other world has come and I must prepare myself for the trip. I asked him about what I am supposed to do since I am within my people in my native land and I should be buried among my ancestors. He kept silent for a while and then he continued. You will ask your people to put your dead body on your horse and let it walk away through the tribes and the woods. When the horse reaches your place he will lay down and rest. They have to dig for your grave at that place and there you will rest in peace. I was moved by his words and kept on weighing the extent of his message. I wanted to say so be it but the old man was already gone and I came out of my dream.

Early in the morning I called the wise of my people and told them about what I saw. They were so unhappy by the news and tried to convince me to take it just as a dream. I was determined to follow the prophecy and asked them to fulfill my wishes. I went back to my bed and tried to take a nap. That was my last moment in this world and my soul went back to Yovna our mother star.

My people were brave and followed my last wishes and so my horse went on carrying me in our final trip to the land of the unknown. My people were following the horse in a deep sorrow and no one of them felt tired or whispered a voice of a word. After seven days of a long trip my horse came to this place and exactly at this spot he bulked down. My people did not know if that was it or the horse will stand up and continue his trip. But after a long day of waiting the sunset illuminated these mountains with a majestic red orange sky and the night invaded the corners. My people fell asleep and each one of them leaned down and rested under the weight of the tiredness of such a long trip. Early the next day my people started coming out one after another of their deep sleep. They were surprised to find the horse still in the same position but his soul went away with his beloved Queen. The older of my people made a requiem speech and asked his followers to be ready for the burial. At this same moment voices came out from these woods and your people showed up in a massive number of brave men. They looked so concerned by the event and they were rushing down to join my people. Your grandfather was leading them and he was the one who talked and asked my people about what was happening on his land. Once he heard the story his eyes became red of emotions and drops of tears covered his face. He kneeled down in front of my dead horse with my body still over him and said his famous words. This woman is from us and we are her people. This day will be my tribe’s day and by God we deserved the right to burry her. He asked my people to be his guests and the two tribes together buried me and my horse side by side as you see now. He then built for me this shrine and both of our people spent the night around my temple celebrating the event. Since then, the same day of each year, your people came with their women, children, and guests from other tribes to celebrate my day. They became my people and I became the Queen of their hearts and their holly Saint. They kept me company and they never failed spoiling me like one of theirs. But since few decencies now and after that wind that blew up from the Far East, our tribe left the land and I stayed alone with my loneliness. Nobody comes to visit me anymore and even their goats and their cows have disappeared forever. This place was once a temple but now it is just a forgotten grave of an ancestor.

As you see my Son, our fate is the same, as I was abandoned by my tribe and you were left to yourself without any roof to give you a shelter. I escaped and buried myself within a deep sleep and you my Son, rebel like your father, you went away beyond the oceans and the continents chasing what is gone forever. Today you are here and your presence is filling my world with happiness. So my little Son, stay with me this time and never leave your Lalla alone anymore. 

I was listening to her words enjoying the warmth of her lovely hand playing with my hair. My eyes felt heavy and I closed them to enter the world of dreams. A large wide heavy wooden door opened in front of me and a blast of strong light blinded my eyes. The sun was so bright, the sky was a wonderful clear blue, and the field was waving with green wheat stems. A little breeze came over and the field waved in an angelic dance of freedom. I was attracted by the presence of a Man far on the other side of the field. The Man was waving to me asking me to join him; but due to the far distance I was from him, I was not able to distinguish his face. I walked faster toward him and went through the field wheat stems that were covering me to my shoulders. The man did not move from his place and I could now see his smiling face. He was my beloved father and he was there waiting for me. A loud scream came out of my throat and my voice bubbled the word I never had the chance to say:"Father!!!". My legs were running and I was trying to fly. I was not feeling my feet while running toward him and my crying eyes never went away from him for fear that I loose him again. As I had him in my reach I opened my arms and jumped in his wide open arms. While he was hugging me so tight and my face kissing his face, the voice of Lalla-Mahbouba whispered in my ears: 

"Rest in peace my lovely Son." 

They say that there was the woman and the horse, but now they will say there is the woman, the Son, and the Horse. My holy Lalla is no more alone. The place is indeed a temple and it is now more peaceful than ever.

                      

                                  

             The words talk about a dream, but when will the

              dream become true? The words drop them blood

              and agony, but they will never say it enough.

                                   

 

El-Bechihi

 

 

Lexicon:

Tabla: A traditional drum used in the Algerian folk music.

Zorna: A wind instrument played traditionally with the Tabla.

El-Mehiaoui: A very famous singer and dancer in my native land.

Bendir: A traditional music instrument used in Algerian Folk music.

Yovna: A star where I believe all my family souls will converge.

Burnous: An Algerian traditional dress for Men. 

Gasba: A bamboos wind instrument (a long flute) used in the Algerian Folk Music.

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