Updated: Oct 5
By Hassan Ahmattay
On Monday, September 25th, my colleague Jonas from the United States and I embarked on a meaningful mission of the High Atlas Foundation to the Achbarou village in the Al Haouz province. Our goal was to distribute 10 tents and assist the local residents in setting them up. These tents were generously financed by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and were handmade by local residents of Dakhla city in the Saharan region of Morocco.
These remarkable tents were handcrafted by women using traditional methods. They utilized a thick, high-quality fabric to ensure protection from winter chills and fluctuating temperatures.
As we hit the road, our hearts were filled with a mix of anticipation and empathy. We were on our way to Achbarou to witness the aftermath of the earthquake and to connect with the resilient people who had been affected by this natural disaster.
The aftermath of an Achbarou home; photo by H. Ahmatay
Upon arriving, we were immediately struck by the visible damage to homes and buildings. The earthquake had left its mark, with structures bearing the scars of the tremors. However, what truly amazed us was the unwavering spirit of the local residents. Despite the adversity they had faced, their smiles were unyielding, and their positivity was infectious.
The warm welcome we received from the people touched our hearts deeply. It was evident that the strength of their community was their collectivity, and they faced adversity with determination.
We began reaching out to the residents, most of whom were now living outdoors due to the unsafe conditions of their homes. The earthquake had rendered their houses unsuitable for habitation. It was a humbling experience to witness their courage and hear their stories.
In addition to our initial distribution of tents and assistance, it's important to note that HAF remains dedicated to extending support to all the villages affected by the earthquake. Its commitment to helping these communities rebuild and recover is unwavering.
HAF understands that there is much work to be done, and actively working on various initiatives to provide long-term assistance and aid to those in need. The resilience of Achbarou has inspired us, and we are determined to stand with all the affected villages on their journey towards recovery and renewal.
Community unity: A helping hand to raise a tent; photo by H. Ahmatay.
During our visit, there were two unforgettable aspects that touched our hearts profoundly. First and foremost, the warm hospitality of the people of Akrich was truly remarkable. Despite the challenging circumstances they faced, they welcomed us with open arms, offering us tea and sharing their breakfast. It was a poignant reminder that even in the face of such a tragic disaster, their innate kindness and generosity remained unshaken.
The earthquake may have devastated their homes, but it did not diminish their good manners, hospitality, or kindness. It was a testament to the enduring spirit of the Moroccan people, who, no matter the adversity, continue to exemplify these virtues.
Another poignant moment etched in my memory was when we ventured inside one of the damaged houses to assess the extent of the destruction. As we entered a room, I was taken aback to see a picture of the royal family hanging proudly on the wall.
Despite the extensive damage surrounding it, the image stood well. In that moment, I was reminded of the deep reverence and affection Moroccans have for their king. It was a powerful symbol of the profound connection between the people and their monarch, and it reaffirmed the strong bonds that unite our nation.
A royal portrait survives the earthquake's impact; photo by H. Ahmatay.
These experiences served as a poignant reminder of the warmth of the people of Achbarou and all Moroccans. They are a testament to the lasting values that define our society, even in the face of adversity.