20230910 rescue morocco
A worker takes part in a rescue operation after the earthquake in Moulay Ibrahim village, near Marrakech, Morocco. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Moroccan expats in the UAE are fervently praying for their loved ones back home, after a massive earthquake killed over 2,000 people and razed entire buildings to the ground over the weekend.

As they received the horrifying news of the 6.8-quake that struck 72km, southwest of Marrakech at 11.11pm, on Friday night, they desperately tried to reach out to their families and friends in their native places, even as rescuers dug through rubble for survivors in collapsed homes in the remote mountain villages of Morocco. There are an estimated 100,000 Moroccans residing in the UAE. 

Waitress mourns loss of a relative

Ikram, a Moroccan waitress at a Dubai restaurant, is mourning the loss of a loved one, the restaurant owner said.

“She is really upset,” said Hicham Hansali, owner of Al Boughaz Al Maghribi Restaurant in Abu Hail, where Ikram works.

Hicham Hansali

“I have not asked her for more details. When she said she lost her relative, I just gave her leave for three days. She told me her house shook in the quake, but everyone ran out to safety. However, she said her relatives’ house was hit harder and she lost one of them.”

Hansali, who hails from Casablanca, said he was grateful that his family had not been affected, but all Moroccan expats are grieving the deaths of their countrymen. “We are extremely sad about what happened. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims.”

He said he is organising a prayer meeting at his restaurant on Monday night. “I am inviting Moroccan expats here to join us for a prayer. I will invite an imam to lead the prayer and read the Quran.”


‘My dad’s house is damaged’

Sara Nejjar, another Moroccan expat in Dubai, said her father’s house was damaged in the earthquake.

Sara Nejjar

“He lives on the first floor of an apartment building along with my grandma. I was so scared for them and I am just grateful that their lives are safe. From what my dad told me, they were awake all night after the earthquake and sat out in the open till 5am afraid to go inside, it’s all very terrifying,” said Nejjar, who comes from Rabat.

Nejjar said she was praying for all those who have been affected by the disaster. “The survivors urgently require food and shelter. They need all the possible support they can get.”

‘My dad was shaken out of his bed’

Bouchra El Hayani, a customer service executive with Medcare Hospital, Sharjah, said her father escaped after the deadly earthquake shook him out of his bed.

“All my family members live here. Only my father is back home. He was asleep when the quake hit. He said he felt his bed shaking badly. Initially, he thought someone was shaking it. He later realised it was an earthquake and ran out of the building.”

Bouchra El Hayani

Luckily, El Hayani’s 74-year-old father escaped without injuries and his home also did not get damaged. However, she said one of her friends’ houses completely collapsed.

“We are far away from home. But, all Moroccans are one family. So, we are deeply pained about the natural disaster in our country. When they are mourning there, we are mourning here,” said El Hayani.

‘I was crying all day and night’

Another Moroccan expat Safae Boukhatem also spoke of a friend’s place being completely destroyed in

Marrakech. “Most survivors spent the night out in the open after the earthquake. I was crying all day and night and called my family several times. Thankfully they are safe.”

‘We thank UAE for generous support’

Ahmed El Malouli, owner of Nujoom Dubai Public Relations Company, said his family members also spent the night outside after their houses in the Fez area were shaken.

“My wife, three daughters, and a son live in one house and my parents and siblings live in another house. They all felt the earthquake and ran out. They spent several hours outside over the night,” said Malouli who was relieved to know his family members were finally safe.

Ahmed El Malouli

“I thank God for that. But, so many people and buildings have been badly hit,” said El Malouli. He said survivors might take more time to get out of the shock of witnessing deadly scenes of death and destruction.

“There are so many countries that have announced support for Morocco. The UAE was one of the first to do it. We thank the President His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and other world leaders for standing by Morocco at this time and sending generous support,” added El Malouli.

‘I pray that the injured get timely assistance’

Mohamed Elmehdi Elattar, who works at Prime Hospital, said he was extremely saddened by the increasing death toll. “There are thousands of people who are injured and last I heard, the number of injured in the waiting areas of the handful of hospitals in Marrakech was also very high. I hope and pray they get timely assistance,” he said.

Mohamed Elmehdi Elattar

Elattar said his own family was in the north of Morocco.

“My father, mother, sister and brothers are safe. But they are all still reeling under the shock of what happened on Friday. The tremors around noon today have not helped matters.”