REPORT DOCUMENTED BY ISMA ORTIZ
On a night of celebration and joy in the Berber village of Amghras, an unprecedented earthquake turned happiness into fear and chaos. Houses collapsed, lights were extinguished, but the solidarity of the community shone through the darkness. This tale of resilience and generosity in the midst of adversity reveals why Amghras' 'Miracle Wedding' is a testament to human strength in times of tragedy.
- Isma Ortiz -
THE VERY FIRST MOMENT
On that balmy night in the Berber village of Amghras, a wedding celebration had enveloped everyone in an atmosphere of joy and community. The tents set up for the event were filled with laughter and song, while the aromas of culinary delicacies wafted through the air. But the tranquillity of the evening was abruptly interrupted when, at 11:11 p.m., the earth itself seemed to awaken with a fury.
An unprecedented tremor shook the ground, and in the blink of an eye, joy turned to fear and chaos. Houses that had housed generations collapsed like houses of cards, and the flickering lights that illuminated the party were extinguished. The roar of the earthquake was deafening and the scream of people filled the air, a mixture of surprise and despair.
The lights of mobiles and torches flared, casting dancing shadows, as families gathered to make sure everyone was safe. Amidst the confusion, community solidarity began to emerge.
They began to organise to see who was missing and once they were aware of the number of people missing they began their search. They managed to pull four people out from under the rubble with their bare hands, and there were six people who could not be rescued and died. The emotional impact of the tragedy meant that one of the village elders died two days later.
As the hours progressed, the scale of the tragedy became clear. The damage was extensive, and the life of this community had been irrevocably altered. Although houses had fallen, the strength and solidarity of the people of Amghras emerged as a light in the darkness. Despite the devastation, they supported each other, determined to rebuild their lives and their beloved village.
The streets are now paths through the rubble.
THE FOLLOWING DAYS
For what seemed like an eternity there were aftershocks around the time of the earthquake, which went on for three or four days without the people of Amghras being able to be sure. Every time the clock approached 11pm, an unfathomable anguish would once again grip the village. The sensation of reliving the original earthquake was a paralysing nightmare, and although they were outside under the starry sky, the fear was just as terrifying. The light was fading again and the darkness of night was upon them, as the earth shook again like a dark echo of the disaster.
The children, who are often the most vulnerable in such situations, reflected the traumas most vividly. Their earlier laughter and play had turned to crying and screaming, an expression of their bewilderment and fear. Each retort brought with it a distressing reminder of the horror they had experienced.
Despite the adversity, the light of hope shone in the form of solidarity, for the people of Amghras were not alone in their suffering. Aid from the authorities was slow due to the difficulties of access and the number of villages affected, but the mobilisation of other villages and people from the big cities was an impressive show of support. The day after the earthquake, a tidal wave of people arrived bringing clothes, food, blankets and tents, a touching show of empathy and generosity. The Amghras community could not believe the magnitude of the aid received and clung to it like a glimmer of hope in the midst of the darkness. Although the road ahead was uncertain, they knew they would not have to travel it alone.
A single kitchen for all, a place shared by all the inhabitants of the village.
THE DAYS AHEAD
In the heart of the Moroccan Atlas Mountains, where winters are harsh and the cold grips the land, the people of Amghras face an uncertain future with a unique philosophy. When asked how they plan to face what lies ahead, their response is an echo of resilience: "The future is today, tomorrow we will see, but we will surely continue".
For the moment, they have set up camp on the outskirts of the village, sheltering in tents that initially provide some respite from the rains and the first onslaught of cold. However, the most immediate challenge is the lack of sufficient tents, with several families sharing space and separated by gender. As winter approaches with its extreme temperatures, a tent becomes a precarious shelter for survival.
Uncertainty about when they will have new housing weighs on the inhabitants of Amghras. The future is uncertain, and they cannot foresee whether they will spend 1, 2 or even 10 years in this temporary situation.
What hurts even more than the loss of their homes is the disappearance of the adobe buildings that have endured for centuries, a legacy of their ancestors and an intrinsic part of their rich cultural heritage. Every adobe tells a story, every wall is a witness to time, and to see these structures crumble is a deep wound to the identity of Amghras.
WHY IS IT A MIRACLE WEDDING?
Berber weddings are festivities that awaken the rich tradition and culture of the Berber people. For three days, bonds, hopes and wishes are woven for a future filled with love and prosperity. On the first of these days, the unmarried young women of the village gather with the bride, marking their skins with henna ink, while praying for a good husband. The second day is the climax, where the whole village gathers to celebrate with joy and merriment. On the third, the groom's family arrives to complete the ceremony with solemnity and tradition.
A standing wall can be used to support salvaged furniture as well as freshly laundered clothes.
As fate would have it, the day and time of the earthquake coincided with the second day of the wedding celebration, a day when most of the villagers were out of their homes, enjoying the festivities in the open air or in the tents that had been erected for the occasion. This circumstance contributed to the fact that the number of victims was minimal, because if the earthquake had occurred on a normal day, when people would have been at home, the catastrophe would have been considerably worse.
Most surprising of all, and what truly makes this celebration a 'Miracle Wedding', is that the date had been changed twice before it was finally confirmed that it would take place on those days.
The bride and groom, caught in a whirlwind of events, can't help but feel that their special day was cursed. In the midst of their shock, they failed to realise that their wedding has become a true miracle for their village.
This catastrophe and the way events unfolded because of this wedding make the Amghras community more united than ever and ready to face the challenges of the future with determination and unity.
FULL GALLERY - DOUBLE CLICK TO SEE THE IMAGES
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Isma Ortiz (Madrid, Spain, 1975). He is a freelance photographer who works both in Spain and in different countries around the world. His focus is mainly on people, capturing their stories and experiences in a touching and authentic way. In addition, landscapes play an essential role in his work, where loneliness stands as a central element, creating visually striking compositions.
His social commitment is evident through his collaboration with non-profit organisations and various social collectives, where he brings his artistic talent to generate a positive impact on society.
In his most recent project, he went to Morocco to document the days following the devastating earthquake that struck the region on 8 September 2023. Her work in this context helped give a voice to the lives affected and highlighted the need for support in times of crisis.