"Sahara Paradise" - or (SAHARA PARAISO) in Spanish - is a title that refers to a photo album book by Moroccan photographic artist Abdallah Zulficar, recently released in Spain, and soon available in Moroccan bookshops in both Arabic and French.

On the occasion of the publication, the Ateneo Center in Madrid (a long-standing cultural institution founded in 1870) organized a book signing ceremony, which was attended by many intellectuals, artists and media professionals.

The book consists of 160 pages, distributed among 112 images, most of which are of large size, as well as short texts in Spanish, distributed according to the themes of the images chosen by the artist from a huge amount, taken by his lens during intermittent trips over a period of 7 years, which led him to the vast desert space. via multi-track paths.

The journey extends from the oases of southeastern Morocco in Tafilalet and Ouarzazate, then the direction of Guelmim and Tan-Tan, passing through Ifni and Tarfaya in the southwest direction. The selection process resulted in the organization of his first exhibition, which he held at the Huelva Museum in Andalusia in October 2019, and then collected it between the two banks of a book.

The idea from birth to growth

Rare are the photographers around the world who can sever their connection with the demand system, and search for returns, and Abdullah Zulfiqar is one of those who work outside this system and its rules. After they decided to take Morocco as a destination for them, under the title "intersecting visions", which, according to Abdullah, means their work on several Moroccan spaces, each from his artistic angle.This trip made Zulfikar explore the borders of the desert, specifically the historical oasis of Taghjijit near the city of Guelmim, which his family also It came on his tongue.

He believes that the first trip with his Spanish friends was not to satisfy his passion, so he decided to resume multi-track trips, so whoever wants his yield must embody the trouble of going to the pastures, as he says, the deserter, according to Abdullah, who also evokes in the same context a saying by Antoine Saint-Exupéry on The little prince said, "What adorns the desert is that it hides a well somewhere," but for him, he found that what adorns the desert is a paradise on its land.

The artist Abdullah Zulfikar decided to go on multi-track trips to discover the treasures of the desert (Al-Jazeera)

He tells that he came across a mansion of banana trees a few kilometers from Tan-Tan, and palm oases along the Draa Valley that feed on springs and wells. A palm tree that cools the atmosphere, fights desertification, and produces the king of dates.

According to him, these rapid and multiple transformations, as much as they caught his attention and formed part of his artistic achievement, did not forget to pick up the evidence of the civilizational depth of the desert, from ancient cities in the south of the Draa Valley that were swept under the sand, making him feel closely that this land gave birth to ancient civilizations, And that its soil was fertile, as indicated by its deep valleys, and what it reflects from the symbols of the archaeological sites of the rock inscriptions extending from the aspects of Aousserd to Tafilalet, passing through Smara, the land of the righteous and the destination of Guelmim, a desert that hides treasures what we do not expect from serenity and beauty, as he put it.

He also evokes Lake Al-Naila in the National Park, which takes the form of a sea shield, distinguished by its biological diversity and natural richness, which makes it receive annually 25,000 birds belonging to 211 species, which flock to the area from different habitats, adding that various of these elements tried to document them, including the landscapes that exude Poetic as sand dunes and mountain extensions with their drawings sculpted by the wind.

From the book "Desert Paradise" (Al Jazeera)

Humanitarian massege

Regarding the project’s message, Abdullah asserts that art found itself in great need of the photograph so as not to be separated from life, capturing time, the escaped, the different, the changing, the small and complex.

"I describe, I express freely, even if my work falls within the framework of reporting. I have completed a work and presented what interests me, and I did not say give me the capabilities to complete a book, I did it out of patriotism only."

Abdullah refers to what stuck in his mind about stereotyped images of some Spanish artists that he used to retrieve from time to time as he roamed the desert field, and found that they mostly remain imbued with a transcendent view, as they focus according to him on the strange and strange, and on landmarks that seem to be far from civilization There is nothing for them but emptiness.

He continues, "What I find surprising about the artistic achievement of a group of Spanish artists around the desert is that they do not care about the rapid and multiple transformations that the region has undergone, and what satisfies their curiosity is the views of sand dunes, and the capture of people's physiological features that are overshadowed by the severity of shrinkage of wrinkles and others." Thus, for him, these other artists are formed from the perspective of the self-observer of natures, customs and dress, and they often draw from a colonial colonial perception, more than an artistic passion for the desert as embodied by some international plastic artists, who painted the desert with much love, reminding in the same context of the French Nasr Religion Denis, compatriot Jacques Majorelle and another Frenchman Gaston Montiel, as well as Portuguese Isabete Viadero, others like Ambrine Derchmont and the unique researcher Odette de Picdu.

He concluded his speech with a saying that he would like to share with the readers of the late Mohamed Al Qasimi, the Moroccan plastic artist, “The desert and the emptiness should be distinguished, because the latter means emptiness and the desert is not an empty place. It is a place full of its history, culture, animals, insects and oases. It has its own geography and paths. The void has no trace. It is to erase that you are facing nothing, there is nothing to lead you."