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.
Rachel – Vlogger, MummyInAmman
Rachel is a British mum vlogging about life in Amman with her Jordanian husband and their two children. She moved to Jordan in 2015 and her popular YouTube channel, Mummy in Amman, tells her story of navigating life and motherhood in a foreign country. In her videos, she shares her insights into Jordanian food and culture, along with her own personal experiences of marrying into an Arab Muslim family and raising kids abroad.
What’s changed about your life and work as a result of Coronavirus?
Life hasn’t changed that much for me personally, being a stay at home mum. But the country has changed dramatically due to the regime’s strong reaction to the pandemic before it hit Jordan.
It’s also had a big impact on how Ramadan is celebrated here: Firstly, we can’t perform the taraweeh prayer, which is a communal prayer that takes place in the mosques and is very spiritual and emotional. Muslims look forward to it all year.
Secondly, halfway through Ramadan everyone does their ‘Eid cleaning’, which is a deep clean that takes place before the end-of-Ramadan celebrations happen, and before friends and family start visiting for big iftars (which also start happening during second half of Ramadan). This year we won’t have any gatherings at all so there’s no real need to do Eid cleaning, although we’re all still doing it anyway!
At the end of Ramadan, iftars and Eid visits are the essence of the celebrations, so taking away the visits almost removes the whole celebration. It’s like cancelling Christmas, but even more so because during this period you’re obligated to visit ALL the extended family. It’s not even about exchanging gifts either, because that’s not associated with the event. Seeing one another and sharing food is the essence of the celebration and quarantine has made that impossible.
How is the pandemic playing out in Jordan?
When this is posted, we will be on day 62 of our official military lockdown in Jordan. The borders and schools were closed early on and a comprehensive military curfew was set in place not long after. Despite this, there wasn’t much panic buying and Jordanians dealt with the drastic change very well.
The country is no stranger to crises and it was really interesting to experience a crisis in Jordan as I have spent much time reading about the wars etc. When you see something extraordinary taking place, military tanks turning up on your block, nationwide sirens sounding the start of a curfew etc, and then see the people rejoice and celebrate their country’s decisive, quick actions rather than bemoan the impact on their daily lives… it’s something extraordinary in itself.
Surreal image of a man in protective clothing spraying disinfectant in Petra (image: Middle East Eye)
It was remarkable to see how fast the schools turned to online platforms. The entire government education system, which is known for its lack of resources and is also often denigrated for its efforts, pulled off this amazing feat that local schools back home in the UK still haven’t been able to. Within days, classes were broadcasted on special TV channels and websites.
People entering the country were quarantined in five star hotels, and emergency resources were distributed to vulnerable families. I couldn’t be more relieved to be quarantined in Jordan. It really feels like human lives have been prioritised above anything else – although this does mean the economy has fully crashed, we couldn’t have afforded a corona breakout in the camps because that really would have broken the country. Instead, people feel positive and empowered by the governments decisions.
How are you spending your time in lockdown? Are you working on anything in particular you’d like people to know about?
I’ve used this time to work more on my YouTube channel, focussing specifically on reporting the corona updates. I’ve also been sharing my adventures with cooking Arabic cuisine on social media which I never planned to do but I’m enjoying working with a different kind of content. But mostly I’m just trying to keep my two little ones busy and distracted!
What knowledge or wisdom do you hope people will take away from this time?
We can survive AND thrive with a quarter of what we are used to.
What 3 words best describe your personal experience of the pandemic?
Rewarding, fulfilling, tiring
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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