With Covid-19 causing chaos throughout the world, we decided to conduct a series of interviews with people across the Middle East and North Africa to try to understand how the effects are being felt across the region.
We’ve spoken to people across various countries and industries from journalism, education and tourism to digital marketing, social entrepreneurship, wellness and arts. Here are their reflections on this ground-breaking time for the region and the world.
Amanda Mouttaki – Entrepreneur and Creator of Marrakech Food Tours
Amanda Mouttaki – or Maroc Mama as she’s known to her followers – is an entrepreneur and major foodie based in Marrakech. Mother to three boys, Amanda was born and raised in the US but moved to Marrakech in 2013 with her Moroccan husband and their kids. She’s since built a business helping curious travellers visiting the Kingdom explore the culinary delights Marrakech has to offer, starting always with delicious street food and authentic Moroccan dishes.
What’s changed about your life and work as a result of Coronavirus?
Everything has changed to be honest! We have a tour company that hasn’t operated since the middle of March. On my website all of my travel content is down. My income has been reduced by about 75%. I also have my kids at home with me all the time so there’s not really much time or space to work.
How is the pandemic playing out in Morocco?
Morocco has been on full lockdown that started March 13th. That means we’re not allowed out of our homes. At first it was much more relaxed, but more and more regulations came after time. We’re now required to wear a face mask if we go outside and only people who have a signed permission slip from local authorities can leave the home for certain things. Almost all shops and restaurants are closed. The response to COVID was very fast and very strong, especially as countries start to de-confine, and we will remain like this until at least the 20th of May.
The biggest risk of course is income and lack of income. The government did create a scheme to get a basic income to people, however the need is very strong. Many people are struggling, especially those who work in the informal economy. Tourism has taken a giant hit and this also makes up a BIG chunk of Morocco’s GDP. I think one other risk not being addressed is a lack of basic education in the country around what the virus is, how it spreads, what it can/can’t do. Because of a lack of education means that people either don’t understand the real risks or they are easily swayed by false information and create hysteria around non-issues.
Surprisingly, the actions have been mostly accepted. There have been some protests but I believe most people understand that the medical system here would not be able to support the mass influx of patients and have widely respected the protocols put in place.
I see the biggest change being in the area of economics. It will be very difficult to see the way out of the crippling of the economy. Many people have lost their businesses and jobs and they may not return. While some have been able to pivot to more technological means of sales and distribution, by and large those who produce lack the education and technological skills to make such a shift. Morocco also has issues with its banking regulations that make it quite difficult for those who wish to sell their goods in a global marketplace.
How are you spending your time in lockdown? Are you working on anything in particular you’d like people to know about?
I have three kids so that has taken up the vast majority of my time. I also have been trying to focus on “the after” to make sure I am in a better place. I have been working on a lot of behind the scenes things that I have put off for ages when I have free time. I also managed to launch a Patreon community for new projects I’ve considered doing.
What knowledge or wisdom do you hope people will take away from this time?
If I’m being totally honest, I just hope it ends. I don’t have a big hope for changing the world. I do think governments and people need to come up with systems and methods to handle things like this that don’t include making house arrest a requirement and grinding economies to a halt. It’s not sustainable.
What 3 words best describe your personal experience of the pandemic?
Get me out!
Follow Amanda on Instagram for more insights into the situation in Morocco and daily cooking inspiration!
ARE YOU BASED IN THE REGION?
How has your life changed as a result of the lockdown? We’d love to hear your reflections on the situation where you are. Leave a comment and share your experience of this strange time that’s simultaneously keeping us apart and bringing us closer together.
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