We sat down for a traditional Berber mint tea and exchanged stories under an orange tree in the quiet entrance courtyard. I’ve known Mohammed for nearly 15 years now, but it was wonderful to learn more about his life and talk about the importance of storytelling. Mohammed spent 11 years as the restaurant manager at Kasbah Tamadot before taking a well-deserved retirement in 2016. However, he soon found himself missing the Kasbah Tamadot family so we were only too happy to welcome him back as our Master Tea Maker. Now, Mohammed spends his days perched on colourful Moroccan rugs under the orange tree, chatting to guests and learning more about their lives and cultures.
I loved hearing more about his six children and grandchildren. Indeed, one of his sons is now working at Kasbah Tamadot too and one of his grandchildren is shaping up to be quite the entrepreneur!
Mohammed is also a wonderful listener – a skill that should never be underestimated. In our busy lives, it’s easy to rush through conversations, be quick to offer our own opinions and nod along while our minds are elsewhere. Showing your undivided attention and being present is one of the kindest things you can do for someone. Listening also one of the best ways to learn and to make people feel valued.
It was really wonderful to hear Mohammed talk about the times he has shared tea with my mum, who founded the Eve Branson Foundation in the neighbouring village. The foundation teaches the local Berber community skills so they can thrive as artisans and make a living.
The art of storytelling is an ancient Moroccan tradition, which helps to educate people on history, culture and the arts with important moral lessons. Master storytellers once filled bustling city squares to recite Hikayats (traditional moral narratives) but sadly the custom is dying out.
I also love learning and communicating through stories; perhaps it’s a by-product of my dyslexia, but I think it’s true of most people. Reading to my grandkids is one of my favourite pastimes and I also love re-telling some of the stories and lessons we’ve learnt along the way at Virgin to our teams all over the world. It’s a great way to connect with people and turn a potentially dull business lecture into an interesting and digestible exchange.
You can’t underplay the value of listening and storytelling (as well as serving delicious tea!) so I’m pleased that Mohammed and the team at Kasbah Tamadot and playing a part in preserving this tradition.