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During the prayer meeting at Al Boughaz Al Maghribi restaurant in Abu Hail, Dubai, on Monday night Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: With heavy hearts and sorrowful faces, dozens of Moroccan expats in the UAE came together at a Dubai restaurant on Monday night to hold prayers for their quake-hit compatriots back home.

At least 2,862 people were killed in the strongest-ever earthquake to hit Morocco on Friday night, the country’s interior ministry said on Monday, revising an earlier toll of nearly 2,700 dead. Another 2,562 people were injured, the ministry said, with rescue workers now facing a race against time to find survivors.

In Dubai, dozens of Moroccan men and women from different walks of life in the UAE - as well as other expats from different Arab countries - observed a night vigil involving the recitation of the Quran and prayers. Tears rolled down the cheeks of some women as they hugged and comforted each other. A Moroccan imam led the prayers and the Quran recitation. Members of the Moroccan Consulate in Dubai also joined.

Hicham Hansali, owner of Al Boughaz Al Maghribi Restaurant in Abu Hail, organised the prayer meeting for Moroccan expats to mourn and pray.

“We wanted to express our solidarity with our people back in Morocco and pray for the families of the victims and the injured in the deadly earthquake,” he told Gulf News.

“We are not in a position to physically be there at the moment. Though we live far away, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Morocco. We are grieving the losses of people and property along with our people back home.”

He said the restaurant opened its doors to the mourners and advertised on social media that Moroccan expats could join the vigil from 9pm to 11.30pm. He also offered a community meal to the attendees.

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People from all walks of life showed up at the gathering Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Ahmed El Malouli, a prominent member of a social media group of Moroccans in the UAE, said: “We condoled with the families of the earthquake victims and ourselves. All Moroccans are in this together during this time of great ordeal.”

He pointed out that Moroccans are known for their community spirit and solidarity in celebrations and weddings. “We stand together not only in good times, but in bad times too. You will find them [Moroccans] always being proactive in expressing solidarity and doing voluntary initiatives with all the love. This is not strange for people of Morocco, a country of generosity in good times and bad.”

Community initiative planned

El Malouli, owner of Nujoom Dubai Public Relations Company in Dubai, said the Moroccan community in the UAE would like all Moroccans across the world to provide wholehearted support to the people of the quake-hit areas through the official channels announced by the government.

“We are working on setting up an initiative from here. We are trying to coordinate a community initiative to support our people back home. People want to make donations in cash and kind,” El Malouli.

“We thank His Majesty King Mohammed VI, the relevant authorities and the Moroccan citizens for the efforts they have made towards the victims of the devastating earthquake since the moment it occurred. We are grateful to all the countries that have offered support and all the people out in the field for the rescue mission. Donating blood is important at this time and we thank all the donors who are helping save lives.”

Grateful to UAE

The Moroccan expats also expressed their gratitude to the UAE’s leadership for being there for their country at this time of crisis.

The UAE was one of the first countries to offer condolences and announce support for the quake-ravaged country.

President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan directed the establishment of an air bridge to deliver critical relief supplies and other forms of support to those affected by the earthquake. He also held a phone call on Sunday with His Majesty King Mohammed VI of the Kingdom of Morocco, during which he expressed his sincere condolences and sympathy over the victims of the earthquake and affirmed the UAE’s solidarity with Morocco and its people during this difficult time.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, directed Dubai Police’s rescue teams to send urgent aid to support rescue efforts. Sheikh Mohammed also ordered the creation of a humanitarian air bridge to enable the charity institutions affiliated to Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives to send relief aid to those affected by the earthquake in Morocco.

Various entities in the UAE have also pitched in to support the quake-hit country and its people.

Meanwhile, major landmarks in the UAE lit up on Sunday night to express the country’s solidarity with the people of Morocco.