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Empty streets in Marrakech: Morocco's Covid-19 lockdown

May 1, 2020

Marrakech city streets

Anyone who has visited Marrakch's iconic Jemaa el Fna square knows that it is can be an overwhelming cacophony of sights, sounds, and smells. Under normal circumstances, vendors of all ilk press together to hawk their wares to tourists at all hours of the day and night.

This is in direct contrast to the Marrakech of the Covid era. A friend sent me this time-lapse video taken in Marrakech's medina. The video starts in the Rahba Kedima square, winds through the eerily empty souks, and eventually spills out into a vacant and ghostly Jemaa el Fna square, framed in the background by the Koutoubia mosque. 

Clearly these are not normal times. Morocco sprung into action on March 18th, in response to the growing worldwide pandemic. At first, the country asked its people to voluntarily restrict movement as a way to slow the spread of the virus. At that point, Morocco had 49 confirmed cases of Covid-19, two fatalities, and one full recovery.

Then, on March 19th, the government declared a State of Emergency. The lockdown was no longer voluntary; it was now enforceable by state police.

Within two days, Morocco began closing international airports. This came much to the surprise of tourists who missed the memo that Morocco was now closed for business. A small window of time remained for travelers to leave Morocco on a handful of very expensive, chartered, one-way flights.

And then the country closed down.

Two months later, the borders remain closed; the best estimate of when they'll reopen is the end of May. For now, we sit and wait and dream about filling those streets once more. Until we meet again.

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