There has been a hive of activity and chat in Morocco over the past couple of weeks.
I’ve been up and down the steps from my flat to the Fonduk (Arabic for ‘Hotel’) which is where the weavers are located around a central, crumbling courtyard where cats meow and kittens are born. Old men smile when I bustle past, basket over my shoulder, as they thread cotton onto little sticks which are then passed on to the man who drives the loom. Magic happens.
It’s an archaic bobin, if you like.
Looms have begun to thump and thud away as weavers have returned to work after months of working at half capacity during our lockdown in Morocco. When I first embarked on the journey that is Made in Tangier, the Fonduk was closed due to COVID restrictions, with just a couple of little workrooms allowing cracks of light through their doors.
In April, I spoke to the weavers who I have enjoyed working with since the day I arrived in Tangier almost two years ago, there are plenty of them and we each have our favourite (although the ones I work with are the hot favourite). They agreed that we could meet over Whatsapp and in person (behind masks) from time to time and before the evening curfew at 6pm. Early morning meetings were arranged and things began to happen. I was terrified of launching a business in the midst of a global health pandemic, but something told me it would be ok.
The week before last, Tangier was still very much ‘locked down’ in a split drawn up by the government which allowed many other parts of the country to identify as ‘zone one’ and others, ‘zone two’.
Tangier fell into ‘zone two’. I cried one night on the phone to a friend when our lockdown was extended for seemingly ever. ‘Just wait’ he assured me, ‘miracles do happen’.
Last week in Tangier, roller doors came up and restaurants began to announce they would reopen, albeit with strict new rules and measures; wait staff would wear masks, tables were only allowed two people – albeit a metre apart from the next table – and with other rather foreign but important measures put in place so that we could see the country open up for much needed fiscal stimulation, following almost four months of being closed down. The evening curfew was extended to 10pm, perfect for the summer conditions we are now enjoying, and for people like me who always seem to need loo roll or a can of tuna as the night sets in.
On the weekend I enjoyed two lunches by the sea. It was heaven to leave the boundaries of Tangier for the first time in four months and I gasped when I saw the Atlantic Ocean as we wove off the mountain and onto the flat, and long stretches of sand filled beaches hugged the car as we made our way to a favourite seaside restaurant.
Domestic travel commenced on the same day that restaurants and cafes opened their doors again. Oh, the freedom of movement outside of our city boundaries!
I read about spikes in the news and endless criticisms of this and that. I am thankful that the only spike I’ve ever taken any notice of, is the weird and wonderful ‘Spike’ from my favourite film, Notting Hill. The headlines are sensational, news outlets deliver terrifying statistics. But for as far as I can see in our little country, population of almost 37 million people, where mandatory mask wearing has been in place since early March along with our borders shut and businesses too, we are doing well. Things are opening up, slowly but surely, and I can only pray that it stays that way for at least a little while.
The small joys that come with a lunch under the fig tree at a favourite seaside restaurant, or the sight of old women in their hijabs once again bobbing down the street nattering to their sisters – all of them now wearing masks – and the boys loitering against the wall lining the boulevard overlooking the Strait, dreaming of a new life in Spain. The waiters in cafes overjoyed to be back at work, and the sound of activity on the street below until ten o’clock each night following the lift of our early evening curfew. All things I once took for granted.
There’s a much welcome flurry of activity. These small things stimulate the mind far more than newspaper articles written by journalists jockeying for position of authority of all things ‘COVID,’ in a time where no one seems to know what it is and what our future holds.
But to be safe is to be sure, and the colour that has returned to life – slowly slowly over the past few days- is far more enjoyable than that of a world behind a closed door.
Although, I have to say, I don’t think anything in this lockdown was entirely bad for me. One thing that hasn’t changed is the beautiful sounds of prayer each night as dusk falls over Tangier, and the smiling faces filing my street who rush to help me as I arrive home each afternoon.
I’m sorry for my absence last week. Next week, we might even have another guest contributor.