A year in photos shot on cameras older than the photographer himself, a look at a somewhat lonesome Morocco.
Agadir – 2020 was a strange time to get to know Morocco, something my journal entries and photos from the year will always remind me.
On January 18, I looked across the Strait of Gibraltar, laying my eyes on the distant-but-not-so-distant coast of Morocco. On January 19, by pure impulse, I boarded one of the many ferries leaving for Tangier. I arrived in the city late at night.
My intention was to stay for a week or two, but next thing I knew — and this is an experience familiar to many people traveling through Morocco — two months had passed since my arrival. I spent the time volunteering in a cozy hostel tucked away not far from Place R’cif, bordering the medina of Fez.
It was late March. I was packing my bags, getting ready to return to Europe when somebody told me that the borders were closed.
And thus started the lockdown. I spent my first months in Kasbah An-Nouar, and I saw a different Morocco. The Fez medina was empty. The highways were empty. People were cautious at first, but as months passed they let down their guard and life slowly resumed.
These photos serve as documentation from across Morocco, showing the country in 2020 without the hustle and bustle, without the crowds, without the tourists.
Morocco, tourists, and COVID-19 in 2020
According to the International Monetary Fund, Morocco’s tourism sector was the fourth hardest hit worldwide. The pandemic wreaked chaos across the globe. With many borders closed indefinitely, the flow of tourists dried up.
COVID-19 cost Morocco’s tourism sector MAD 18.3 billion ($2 billion) by the end of July 2020, according to the Directorate of Financial Studies and Forecasts (DEPF). Between January and April, international tourism arrivals were down 50% compared to the same period in 2019. For June, the number of overnight stays reached 68,199, down by 97% from the previous year, the DEPF report said.
This study showed that Morocco risked losing 10.5 million tourists and over 10.8 million overnight stays in 2020 due to the pandemic, and these photos clearly demonstrate the impact. Morocco’s state media noted that the country saw a 69% decrease in tourist arrivals and 60% in foreign exchange earnings. As such, the pandemic cut half of all Moroccan jobs in the tourism sector.
Despite the challenges of 2020, many observers hold out hope for the year to come, with some seeing it as a great opportunity to transform the Moroccan tourism sector. Meanwhile, the government has kept busy with the launch of various initiatives to help the sector recover.