“This guy over there I think he is Arab like you, his name is Ismael” that’s what Linda, one of the very good friends I made told me after dinner in Zubiri, my 3rd night on the Camino.
“Yes, Ismael is an Arabic name!” I said happily, thinking I finally found someone Arabian. Although with my first glance at him I knew he wasn’t Arab, or atleast 100% not Egyptian!
I went over and started talking to him, he was already in a conversation with a friend of ours called Chabelo but I still went to him and started talking.
This is more or less how our conversation went in the begining
“Hey how are you?”
“I’m good, how are you?”
“I’m fine. I’m Mina, from Egypt. Linda told me your name is Ismael, where are you from?”
“I’m from everywhere”
“I don’t believe in nationalities or countries, I am from everywhere in the world”
“Oh…How old are you?”
“I’m old, I’ve seen alot and experienced so much, I’m old”
I know the beginning was very weird, yet there was something that made me sit and listen to his conversation with Chabelo. He is a wise man. And although I know he will probably not read this because I didn’t get his contacts, I have took his permission to write about him (Yes I was planning on making a blog:) )
I only met him for two consecutive days, the night in Zubiri and the following night in Pamplona; he had to leave after that and go to France for some reasons and he will continue his Camino later.
This post might sound weird, I will list some facts I learned about him (which made me respect him alot) and I will also list some quotes from him which has made me think alot for several days.
Ismael has done the Camino 6 times, and when I met him it was his seventh! One of the previous 6 times was in January!! (Camino and Pyrenees in winter, not very easy or safe)
He told me a story about a religious christian man who has done the Camino BARE FOOT, if you have walked the Camino you know it is impossible! Why I don’t think he’s lying? That’s hard to explain…But what’s the point of lying and making up a character I don’t know and will never meet?
Ismael is Muslim, he was born Muslim, he converted to Christianity and then back to Islam. This got me curious and I asked him why he changed that much? and what didn’t he like about Christianity? He said he didn’t find himself a good christian, and religion is something that is supposed to make you feel good about yourself. He believes in God, and he believes that all religions are different names for the same God, the good God. But you must choose the name of the religion according to your own preferences, and try to be good according to that religion, which is basically being good to other people. (It was the first time I heard this explanation and I loved it).
Ismael is not rich. AT ALL. His only job is a freelance writer from some French magazines and news papers. His main place of living is a monastery (Yes, with Christians) in France. Yet he travels alot. His main ways of traveling is walking and/or hitch hiking, and you can say he’s been almost all around the world, or atleast all around the places that no one usually visits, example Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. And yes he hitch hiked in those places.
“Where there is death, there is life” He told me this when I told him that it is my dream to work with the WHO in some screwed up place just to help people, and know that at the end of the day someone is remembering me and thankful that I’ve been there. He first started explaining this by saying that when death is near, for example in a war, you know that you can die at any moment, each bomb or gun shot could be your end. When you understand this, you then start living life to the fullest, you then dare to do things you would never normally do, you would then let the good AND the bad inside you all out, you would express all your feelings, do every thing that gets to your mind.
He then started telling me a story about him, when he was hitch hiking through Iran, in a truck carrying some goods and it started raining that the trucks were not able to move anymore. They were stuck there for days, what the trucks did though, was everyone of them got out their goods, and they made their own market of goods exchange, in the middle of nowhere, just to survive through the storm. They spend there several days, living through their “market” in the morning and lighting up fires and exchanging stories in the evening.
We also chatted about some random stuff like alcohol and smoking, about women (the conversation wasn’t all wise stories, we had fun talking over a bottle of Cognac) 🙂
One thing he told me was to walk to Finisterre, he said the Camino doesn’t end in Sanitago, you have to reach the ocean, and stay in Finisterre for a couple of days and get immersed in the city. I did that, he was right when he said that I wouldn’t feel that my Camino has ended in Santiago, I had the urge to walk more and reach the end of the world (Finisterre).
He was very specific about his descriptions of the cities, he gave me a list of albergues (hostels) that I have to stay in if possible because they have a nice feeling to them, he wasn’t wrong about any of them! He gave me a simplified map of Santiago, and of Finisterre as well (this guy knew his way around the Camino so well!)
One last weird fact, if you have watched “The Way” the movie, the guy that told the pilgrims to continue their walk to Muxia was also called Ismael! Well in my case he told me to continue to Finisterre, and I didn;t have time to visit Muxia. But the reason was the same in both cases, “The Camino does not end in Santiago de Compostela”…Weird coincidence?
PS The movie was out after we were done with our Camino.
Photo credits of the first photo goes to “Bernardo Ruiz”