We visited Youssef a few days ago. As usual he offered us sweet green tea that he makes over a charcoal fire, served on flat tile set into the sand as a table. Youssef welcomed our gift of a bottle of red wine. He speaks reasonably good French and Spanish, acquired simply from years of talking to European visitors to his beachfront abode. In good weather, he sleeps out there.
We have one of Youssef’s airplanes hanging from the ceiling in our house here and a helicopter at home in France. We have paid between 30 and 50 euros for his pieces. Youssef has a new crop of sculptures for sale but to purchase one requires a trip to the beach in Sidi Ifni and a bit of negotiation.
Youssef dresses in a personal melange of clothing given to him by the retired Europeans who spend their winters in the local campgrounds. He almost always wears a Cuban army beret, the gift of a French friend. Youssef proudly showed us his new sign. It says he’s happy to pose for photos but expects a donation of 20 euros to do so. “For thirteen years all the tourists come by and ask photo? Photo? and not a one has ever given me even a dirham,” he lamented. Since we haven’t either, he could see this worried me. “Of course, not local friends like you,” he added.
Youssef said he got the idea for the sign from a Swiss tourist. One day when he was fed up posing for photos he told the man he wanted 20 euros to have his picture taken. The man countered that he would give Youssef 5 euros to take his picture. Youssef declined. Two days later the Swiss tourist came back with 200 DH, the equivalent of 20 euros, and offered it to Youssef for taking pictures. According to Youssef, he was so thrilled that he gave the man back his 20 euros and let him take photos to his heart’s delight. Youssef now considers this fellow one of his dear friends. We’ve promised to send the Swiss man an email with a photo of Youssef to let him know he’s remembered. As we left, Youssef was putting up his new sign.