Marrakech earthquake and Morocco hospitality, lesson to learn

IF you are familiar with long flights, you will concur with me that jet lag (a combination of fatigue and other symptoms caused by travelling abruptly across different time zones) is real. No wonder others call it ‘time zone change syndrome’, because the body is synchronised to night and day by the action of sunlight through brain chemicals or neurotransmitters, especially melatonin.

That aside as my plane approached Marrakech’s Menara Airport, I concentrated on how I was going to greet and display my ‘sorry face’ in front of my hosts and the ground crews given the fact that the recent Morocco earthquake was still giving me sleepless nights.

Since I felt so sorry for the residents of Marrakech (in southern Morocco) after their historic city was hit by the devastating earthquake, three weeks ago, I was still not making ends to meet for them.

The quake killed thousands of people and also left thousand others homeless. It also destroyed large areas of the historic centre of Marrakech that is one of the four imperial cities of Morocco and the capital of the Marrakech–Safi region.

It was my first time to be in the country and that culminated after King Mohamed VI of Morocco visited Tanzania a couple of years ago as well as Simba Club having had a match with Berkane, Raja Casablanca and Wydad Casablanca in the North Western country.

Just to slightly take you back before landing, I peeped through my window and saw how various farms were prepared, some irrigated ready for the next planting season and I concluded that despite the country being in a desert, their agriculture is modernised and no longer waiting for unpredicted rainfall to feed it.

Situated at the edge of the city’s northern section, Palmeraie (palm grove) is an area of some 130,000 hectares but made green with over 180,000 palm trees, making it a city of palm oasis outside Marrakech.

Some literatures show that throughout the seasons, fragrant orange, fig, pomegranate and olive trees all display their colours and fruits in Agdal Garden, Menara Garden and others in the city, though I was not lucky to see that season.

Some of the participants in a meeting mingle outside before entering Kilimajaro Hall in Marrakech, Morocco. The mountain, is not only a darling in Tanzania, but Africa and globally.

On landing safely, I was surprised with the ground crews at the airport welcoming us with hearty broad smiles, as if the tragedy never happened in the country and devastated them and to adjust, I also instantly switched from carrying the sorry mood and look to display a friendly happy face.

People at the Marrakech were friendly, wore brave smiles as they assisted us to go through migration processes and were really ready with helping hand.

For instance, a former journalist with former L’economiste, Mohamed Mounadi, who was with us posed: “You know the Morocco hospitality? Keep the smile despite anything.”

Going through their literature-Friendly Morocco, an online magazine, Morocco is the third welcoming country in the world as per the World Economic Forum investigations measuring the quality of being warm and welcoming to strangers. The survey was done in 2013 and relied mainly upon nations’ attitudes towards tourists. Only 20 countries out of 140 were marked ‘Very good welcoming’.

At the hotel, while checking in we were served tea popularly known as Marrakech mint tea. Traditionally, the people here get to know each other while having a thirst-quencher tea.

But how did ‘Marrakechian’ manage to bravery carry on a few weeks after the devastating earthquake?

Morocco Head of Government, Aziz Akhannouch said that the country managed quickly and effectively to implement several emergency programmes to re-house the affected and provide them with health, social and psychological assistance.

He further said: “In the context of these circumstances, we decided to devote a special session to this debate to discuss ways to reduce risks in managing natural disasters that could occur at any time, as they require the implementation of bold and multiple strategic measures”

Thus, the organisers, the Kingdom of Morocco in collaboration with African Global Health (AGH), continued as planned with the 2nd African Health Harm Reduction Conference in Marrakech.

The quake epicentre was some 70 kilometres from Marrakech, where some building in the old city near Kasbah open market also felt the effect.

Almost all delegates, especially the conference speakers who had the privilege of airing their condolences openly were touched by the tragedy and the fate of those who were affected by the tremor.

“A united people never fall. A dignified people always rise up again,” read part of AGH condolences on its conference guidebook.

One of the speakers, Dr Fernando Spilki of Brazil’s Feevale University thanked the organisers for showing the brave face and going ahead with the conference despite the heavy tragedy.

Another speaker Carlos Eduardo Rodrigues Santos, from Brazil’s National Cancer Institute (INCA) noted that people need to be brave like the Moroccans and their King Mohamed VI.

‘In the recent tragedy they set an example of humanity and competency,” Dr Santos, an Oncologist, said.

The three-day conference with one of the halls named Kilimanjaro made me realise that the mountain is not only a darling in Tanzania, but Africa and globally. The conference brought together 83 countries and winded up with the hospitality shown by the people of Marrakech right from the airport to the hotel to the conference hall and to the streets, where everyone was ready to assist.

The last welcoming smile I received at the Immigration Desk after the Officer stamped an exit mark on my passports, the gesture made me look behind only to hear another traveller saying ‘Shukran Marrakech’ and a reply of ‘Marahaba’.

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