Morocco Earthquake Crisis
It was with great shock I received a phone call late on Friday night from a good friend in Marrakech, 'we've had an earthquake!'
Not until Saturday morning did news start coming through about the extent of the damage and loss of life. The rest of the weekend I spent on WhatsApp checking in with friends and colleagues to make sure everyone was safe and well. I've been travelling to Morocco and working in close partnership with artisan communities there for the past 25 years and the country is very much my second home. Thankfully my friends and the extended Bohemia family in Marrakech are all OK, but my phone is filled with photos and videos of their damaged homes, shops and workplaces.
Although there has been significant damage in parts of the medina and to the ancient city walls, it is in the Atlas Mountains and the epicentre of the quake that the devastation is catastrophic. Entire villages have all but disappeared. Mohamed, the artisan who crafts some of our finest leatherwork, such as the pleated leather handles on our new baskets, was with his family in a tiny mountain hamlet far from Marrakech when the earthquake struck. The homes there have been destroyed and the people are having to live and sleep outside without shelter as no one has been able to get to them yet. This is a story which will be repeated many times over as there are hundreds of tiny villages scattered throughout the mountains which are almost unreachable by vehicle and only accessible by mule or moped.
Over the years I have spent a lot of time in remote rural villages like the ones that have been so terribly affected by this earthquake. I have lived amongst families whose lives materially are very poor but whose kindness, generosity and strength of spirit have deeply moved me. To see people who already have so little lose everything is absolutely heartbreaking. Over time buildings can be repaired and replaced but the loss of people, broken bodies and broken hearts is something else entirely.
The light that shines through all this darkness is the Moroccan people themselves. For many of my friends life has never been easy and the adversity they have faced has built a resilience and clear understanding of values that is inspirational. The sense of community and practical attitude to helping others can be seen in the convoys of cars and trucks filled to the brim with emergency supplies heading out from the cities to the mountain villages. Morocco is renowned for the hospitality of it's people and I have seen stories of those who have lost their homes and yet still making tea and offering it to guests.
I'd like to say how incredibly grateful I am to everyone who has been in touch to express their distress and concern and to ask what they can do to help. People are also debating if they should go ahead with trips they have booked to Morocco. I completely understand the moral quandary about holidaying in a region that has been struck by disaster, but the word from my friends who work in the tourism sector is to please come, you will be welcomed. Tourism is such a vital part of the Moroccan economy that to see people cancelling their trips now will just compound the effects of the earthquake, and at a time when many businesses are only beginning to recover from the years of pandemic.
At Bohemia we will continue our work with our artisan partners, but with a heightened sensitivity and awareness that it may take some of our communities time to get back on their feet, with possible delays in restocking certain items.
We are also donating to trusted local organisations which are offering immediate assistance to those most in need, and we share these with you here should you feel able and moved to contribute:
Amal Non Profit | @amalnonprofit
Photos by @jennybohemian taken over many years of travel throughout Morocco journeying to remote rural villages. The images of Tinmel Mosque in memory of 5 workers who were finishing the restoration of this heritage building and died in the earthquake while sleeping on site.