Confinement goes against cultural norms in Morocco. Most Moroccans spend much of their day and night outside, returning home only for meals and to sleep. Often the women of the household will stay inside taking care of the home and children, but men are out and about. I am not talking about the tiny class of super wealthy but of the average Moroccan of limited means, working in the informal sector or unemployed. Even Moroccans of the small middle class tend to be out of the home for most of the day.
Households are often composed of several generations. If one or two people have jobs, their income goes to support the extended family. For example, our housekeeper is regularly besieged by financial requests from her family back in Marrakech. I once found her in tears in the kitchen because her family insisted that she had to spend more than a month’s salary to buy a cow for the wedding of one of her good-for-nothing brothers. She asked me for a loan which I refused. I later learned that she had obtained a micro-business loan to pay for the cow.
Usually, only the parents have a private bedroom in a typical Moroccan household. Sometimes and elder son, or a married couple of another generation have a bedroom too. Everyone else sleeps on Moroccan sofas in one of the living rooms. Larger homes have several such salons. No one bothers with sheets. They simply take their blanket from the neatly folded pile and stretch out. The blankets are washed and aired regularly.
In town, Moroccan salons do include mattresses, either on the floor or on a wooden base. They are generally arranged in a U shape around a central low table where food is served. Moroccans use bread to scoop up the meal from a central dish, or a spoon for salads and sweets. The main meal is served late in the evening, between 9 and 10 p.m. even for children. People usually have a snack late afternoon. Men often spend much of their day hanging out at cafes, particularly those who have no jobs. Many cafes feature big televisions showing football matches from around the world non-stop. People who have little money drink pots of sugary green tea to keep going, with maybe a crust of bread and a Vache Qui Rit cheese. Crepes and donuts (a holdover from the era when Sidi Ifni was a Spanish colony) are also popular.
The Moroccan government will attempt to give handouts to informal workers during the lockdown, which is already planned to last until April 20. Undocumented workers have access to a basic free health plan. Household heads registered with this plan have been asked to send their health insurance number via text message to a central number. If the person is deemed eligible for the handout they will receive a text message back explaining how to obtain the payments of approximately 80 euros per month. Let’s hope it works as these families really need income while they are cooped up watching television and their smart phones non-stop.