Khalid Lamlih has always had a fascination with travellers.
As a child growing up in the mountains in Morocco, Khalid admits to being baffled by tourists who would drive by his home and take photos of him: “I’d always wait to see those big buses of tourists and I would think, ‘What the hell is the guy telling people, man? Why are they coming to my country?’”
Khalid’s early curiosity with tourism never left him and today, after three years as an Intrepid local leader, he has the answers to those questions.
Khalid is now the guy speaking to those travellers. So what is he telling them?
“Stories. People love them. They inspire people. Stories about the country, stories about our history, stories about whatever activity we’re doing… It all makes my passengers excited. I share some personal stories, too, to give examples of our culture – of how I grew up.
“I think a story is the key to finding out about my country.”
It’s not a one-way street, though. Khalid, like any child growing up in a small village, had very little idea about the extraordinary diversity of his country. Being a tour guide has changed all that, though.
“I thought that the country was going to be the same as my tribe, the same as my region,” he says. “However, I discovered that my country is very rich in history and culture.
“There are many tribes and many people. I love Morocco’s diversity. Morocco is like a mixed fruit cocktail. You never feel bored with it. You see something different every day. We have everything: snow, sand, ocean, mountains, sea, cities, history. It’s a country that has everything you need.”
It’s a revelation he is happy to share with his tour groups and it is this diversity – the richness of the culture, the different tribes and ethnic groups – that surprises visitors the most, he says.
“My job involves sharing. I love to share – stories and experiences. I love it because I learn from people. These people change my life and I change theirs.
The people who are easiest to talk and communicate with are people who have travelled.
“I love that people can come to Morocco with negative thoughts yet when they get to know us and Morocco, they change their mind and tell the others.
“I think we can change the world by teaching people to accept others. Most of the time I prefer to ask my passengers, ‘Tell me who you are’ rather than ‘Where are you from?’ We didn’t choose our country, we didn’t choose how we grew up or our homes. We make ourselves and help others.”
Khalid is very keen on the power of these one-on-one interactions. His top travel tip is “Try not to believe Mr Google.” Why is travel so important? “You get to know people. The people who are easiest to talk and communicate with are people who have travelled. They know and can accept other cultures.”
Perhaps one-on-one interactions with local people is the answer to the young Khalid’s other question: ‘Why are they coming to my country?’ Khalid tells a beautiful story from the road:
“We were in a bus and I saw some nomads who were travelling with donkeys and mules. I told my passengers that we were going to stop and talk to them, learn from them. We all talked and everyone loved it. They asked questions. It’s emotional yet really nice to see it in real life rather than on TV. They got to see something real.
“We ended up having tea with the nomads. I love to surprise my tours with activities that they didn’t expect. This can be the highlight for many.
“People travel with Intrepid to look for real experiences.”
Khalid has been named on the shortlist for the Wanderlust World Guide Awards 2017. Wanderlust is calling on everyone and anyone who has travelled with Khalid to head over to worldguideawards.com and leave a testimonial about your experiences with him before 23 June 2017.