The novel coronavirus has stripped Morocco of its vibrancy and dynamic energy, replacing its eclectic magic with uncertainty and fear. Rising from the deserted streets, however, is a new kind of unanimity that is taking place within communities across Morocco.
Marrakech – Two weeks ago, the streets of Marrakech bustled with locals and tourists alike.
Horns blared, lights twinkled, voices competed with each other to be heard above the din. The sunshine made everything sparkle infinitely. The atmosphere vibrated with movement on every corner. Marrakech was getting ready for spring.
Step out into the streets now and you will find them empty, a heavy silence echoing up from the pavements. Lone taxis can be seen desperately looking for customers, and a few wide-eyed foreigners walk hurriedly, keeping their distance from everyone else.
Ironically, the heavy rainfall has left a cold, heavy gloom settling over the Red City.
Since the government-ordered lockdown came into effect on the second day of spring, residents all over Morocco have become scared and worried over what the future will hold.
COVID-19 is here and citizens are already starting to feel the impact of its deadly venom. Not only is it dangerous medically, but it is also beginning to cause mental distress to many as people are forced to stay home while businesses, restaurants, cafes, and stores are closed indefinitely. The country has been crippled almost overnight and no one has any answers on how we can recover.
But, despite the silence on the streets, and the fear of the people, Morocco is awakening from within.
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI introduces a fund to save the economy and help those affected financially, inspiring Moroccan corporations, philanthropists and Ministers to follow suit.
New measures via the National Social Security Fund (CNSS) are announced to help those with suspended pay, pensioners will benefit from early payments, and Moroccans are promised that the country has enough food and medicine to get through the crisis.
The pandemic that has closed the door to freedom of movement has Morocco’s citizens uniting online and in-person in ways never seen before.
A society reborn
Schools across Morocco have been working tirelessly to educate its pupils with TV stations turning into educational learning portals and virtually, where teachers have set up Skype lessons to ensure the continuation of learning for its students on a daily basis.
One school director, Adnane Benabdallah, has been sending messages and videos daily to his school staff to encourage and support the fantastic work the professors are doing.
“My students and staff are my number one priority, and we are doing everything to ensure that the learning process continues whilst we are in lockdown,” he said.
“I have seen my teachers pull together and help each other in adapting to teaching online, and the response from students has been phenomenal, which only serves as confirmation that when we pull together, anything is possible.”
Communities gather virtually via watch parties, zoom calls, and live videos on Facebook.
Local communities in the city of Oujda have had officials working to explain to residents what the coronavirus is and how to protect themselves effectively. Citizens organize ways to help the elderly gather the essentials they need.
People work together to help stranded foreigners get home—some risking their health to be at the airports to give foreigners support and advice. Information is shared and translated across the masses.
Residents check in with those most vulnerable and isolated and share food items. Smaller communities such as one in Zagora work together by sharing their food: Each household cooks and shares the meal by leaving it outside the front doors of neighbors, so every evening people can enjoy different meals.
There is a surge of positive messages sent to one another, and Facebook groups such as “Coronavirus: Morocco News & Updates,” which has accumulated nearly 1,000 members in less than a week, have been created to give support and open communication to foreigners in Morocco.
The Morocco International Women’s Association (MIWA) have launched an initiative in Marrakesh to gather food and medication for the sub-Saharan community and for remote villages in the Atlas, where many men have lost their jobs since the beginning of the lockdown and now are under severe pressure while trying to care for their households.
MIWA urges other groups and associations to also take action in their local communities and “pay it forward.” Shauna Merbouhi, one of the co-founders says, “Imagine if each of these groups from each city came together, and held an action aid such as ours, what a huge difference it could make!”
The pandemic and subsequent lockdown has brought Morocco full circle, a rebirth. We as humans are again learning to love the very basic of things—our health, family, responsibility, and unity as a nation.
There is a clear understanding that to survive, solidarity will be our savior and see us through the darkest of hours.
COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on many, but it is also bringing new hope and many blessings in its wake.