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Solidarity with Morocco

By now, many of us have seen the headlines and desperate images coming out of Morocco, where on Friday night a magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck, with its epicentre in the High-Atlas mountains, a remote area of villages south of Marrakech. Parts of the Taroudant region, and the Marrakech Medina were also affected. First responders have rushed to reach the area, and rescue efforts are underway to find survivors trapped in the rubble, and to offer aid and support to those affected.

This tragedy strikes close to home for Trufflepig. I am based here (in Rabat, where we felt the tremors but were not affected, alhamdoulillah), and not only have I spent a lot of time traveling, guiding, and planning trips in the Atlas, many members of the Trufflepig team have as well over the past two decades. Trufflepig’s first ever trip was a honeymoon to Morocco in April 2004, and it was to Morocco that we all headed for our first post-Covid company-wide retreat earlier this year.

One thing those of us who have spent any amount of time in this Berber enclave have in common, are memories of local encounters with the friendly, resilient, and resourceful people of the region. I recall one of my most recent driving trips through the High Atlas with some friends and family members. As we were crossing the mountain-pass at Tizi-n-Test, our truck got a flat tire. Stuck in a remote area on uneven rocky terrain with no gas station or garage for miles, we started to get concerned – until several men appeared from out of nowhere to offer assistance, speaking with us in darija Arabic, and amongst themselves in the local Berber dialect of tachelhit. They expertly fixed our wheel and waved us on our way, refusing to take the money which we insistently pressed into their hands. We had believed ourselves alone in that wilderness, and were touched to see that we were anything but.

A short hour before our mishap, I had insisted that we stop to see one of the Atlas’ most treasured monuments, the beautiful mosque of Tinmal. This area was the cradle of the Almohad empire. From this lone post in the High Atlas, the Almohads forged a dynasty that quickly spread across Morocco and controlled at the height of its influence much of the Iberian Peninsula. The predecessor of the Koutoubia mosque in Marrakech and the Giralda in Sevilla, Tin Mal is what the Parthenon is to Greece or Notre Dame is to Paris. By early Saturday morning, after 800+ years, it was decimated.

The people of this devastated area need to know they are not alone. There are two things that can be done to express solidarity with Morocco and the people of the affected region at this time.

Donate.  There are many international organizations already on the ground in Morocco, such as UNICEF, Oxfam, or the International Red Crescent. Trufflepig has decided to make donations to two locally-based charities, one which is the Education For All Morocco Foundation. They are based in the areas most affected by the quake, and are providing emergency relief for families and children. Their normal functions include providing boarding houses to help educate young girls from the very villages in the High Atlas where the earthquake struck. The houses will need to be rebuilt and they are currently underway offering support to the local families, and trying to reach the girls in their villages, as school term had not yet started. The link above is to their Earthquake Crisis Appeal for donations page, via the Global Giving website who are working in conjunction with the EFA.

The other local charity is Amal, a non-profit cooking school, restaurant and training centre for disadvantaged women, many of whom have come from precarious situations and many of whom are from families in the High Atlas. They have mobilized immediately, turning their two centres in Marrakech into emergency kitchens, cooking and preparing food to be distributed to the High Atlas working in conjunction with World Central Kitchen, who’ve got solid infrastructure in place and have so far already been able to reach some of these villages by helicopter as some roads are still impassable.

The other way to express solidarity is not to abandon plans to visit Morocco. For a start, most of the country was unaffected by the quake. And to state the obvious, massive loss of tourism dollars at this critical stage will only compound the crisis as the country mobilizes quickly to recovery. Much of the tourism infrastructure in Morocco is made up of tiny businesses that squeak by. That’s a great part of the charm of visiting here. After two years of Covid related cancellations and postponements, many individuals and businesses who were just getting back on their feet financially will struggle in the months to come.

I have often remarked on my travels through this beautiful country, there isn’t a guide, driver, or a hotel employee who does not have a relative or family member in the affected region. Moroccans band together to help each other in times of need, as we are seeing now. Tin Mal will be rebuilt, the Culture Ministry has indicated, and Morocco will heal and emerge from the damage and hardship, as it has always done. Offering hospitality and aid to strangers is a core tenant in Islam and a characteristic that many Moroccans wear here as a badge of pride.  Let’s let Morocco know that in their time of need, they are not alone.

Sebastian is based with his Moroccan family in the country’s capital, Rabat, and can be contacted here for any questions about the current situation on the ground or if you have any questions about travel to Morocco or how one can help. 

Offering hospitality and aid to strangers is a core tenant in Islam and a characteristic that many Moroccans wear here as a badge of pride.

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