Sunday, 9 January 2011

The Porters of Tangier

"Though the barriers of life seem formidable, we find when we challenge them that they have no will."  Robert Brault.

A few days ago I returned from a small village in the mountains of Morocco. What I found there was an incredible amount of beauty – in nature, in the immaculately painted houses and most of all in the people. Their warmth, hard work and recognition of the oneness of all of us as human beings was amazing.

However, one of the things which had the biggest impact on me wasn’t found in the mountains but at the port while waiting for a ferry to cross back into Spain.

At the entrance to the port there is a very long drag of concrete steps which leads to an overpass. To board the ferry you must make the long steep trek with your luggage. In the centre of the steps there is a slope so you can push luggage carts up – if you’re Superman that is.

Here’s what amazed me. Waiting there at the port for every ferry was a small band of porters. These were all guys of small stature and let’s just say they would definitely not be classed as young.

I watched in amazement as they piled their carts higher and higher with what looked like enough luggage for a small army before turning around and almost running up the slope, across the overpass and to the waiting boat.

Time and time again they passed, ferrying other people’s luggage and relying only on tips for payment. It struck me how hard these people work just to earn enough money to live on. 

I had enough trouble just pushing my single suitcase one time up the same route but these guys do the same thing all day and every day. I felt a great deal of respect and admiration for them. 

It was as if in the face of the Porters' determination, the heavy cases and the long steep slope lost all will to resist.

Most of all it made me realise how easy my life is compared to the Porters' and I started to wonder what would happen if I took a leaf out of their book. What would it be possible to achieve?

I looked a little closer at their technique and this is what I noticed:

They piled the cases high
In fact, they were so eager to carry as many cases as possible that a heated argument broke out when one of the Porters didn’t leave enough for his friend. Presumably more cases mean a bigger tip even though it takes a lot more effort.

They almost ran
Once loaded up they were so eager to get started that they almost ran up the slope. I didn’t see any slumped shoulders, hanging around or complaining. They had something to do and they did it with enthusiasm.

They were consistent
It’s a repetitive job, it must get boring at times. Yet time after time I saw the same people making the same route. If there were cases, the Porters were there. Filling their trucks, running up the slope and returning for more.

They had their eyes on the reward
At one point I saw one of the guys pull a wad of Dirham (Moroccan currency) from his pocket and count them with a flourish before returning it to his pocket and tapping it with a smile. I’m sure he wasn’t doing all that running for the sheer pleasure. He worked hard but with an eye on the reward and there is something particularly motivating about a tip for a job well done.

As I look around, I can see many situations which could be challenged with the determination of the Porters. So to the Porters of Tangier I would like to say thank you, you are an inspiration.

Image courtesy of Andrew Stawarz


  1. nossa...estava sentindo falta de ler isso...e eu realmente me sinto privilegiada por poder ler suas palavras...simplismente...adorei ...como sempre suas palavras sempre me ajudam a refletir sobre minha vida...obrigada... ;)

  2. @patty Obrigado pelo incentivo Patty. Próxima vez vou tentar não deixá-lo tanto tempo.