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Morocco prays for rain as dry spell endangers livelihoods

King Mohammed VI called for rain prayers to be held across Morocco on Friday [AFP]

Date of publication: 25 November, 2017

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With a shortage of rain threatening Morocco's agriculture, King Mohammed VI ordered that prayers for rain be held across the country.

"We beg for God's mercy," said 10-year-old Hasan, wearing a long white tunic, as Moroccans across the parched country Friday held prayers for rain under a royal decree.

The faithful gathered in Sale, opposite the capital Rabat, to take part in the ancient tradition.

"People pray to call for God's mercy and pardon. The Prophet [Mohammad] and his companions would pray for rain every time it became scarce," said Mohammad Boutarbouch, head of the ulema Muslim scholars of Sale who organised the event.

Hasan was one of the children who took part in a march to the coastal city's Great Mosque, as women watched from balconies on the route. The ulema, preachers, officials and ordinary worshippers formed part of the procession held under a sunny sky.

"This prayer takes place when there is a shortage of rain and the worshippers of God need his clemency," said Badr Mohieddine from Morocco's Islamic Affairs Ministry, wearing a red turban.

Like its Iberian neighbors to the north, Portugal and Spain, Morocco has suffered a severe shortage of rainfall since the end of the summer.

Moroccan university studies show that temperatures have risen by up to 4 degrees Celsius since the 1960s and annual rainfall has been on the decline. The drought has hit cereal production this season and could force the country of 35 million inhabitants to resort to imports.

King Mohammad VI, in his official capacity as "commander of the faithful," called for prayers in all Moroccan mosques "to implore the Almighty to spread his benevolent rains on the earth," the Islamic Affairs Ministry said.

The weather has become a major topic of conversation across the country, 40 percent of whose population depends on agriculture for their livelihood and where the sector accounts for more than 15 percent of GDP.

"It's too early to speak of drought. But if there's no rainfall by mid-December, the situation will turn critical," an Agriculture Ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. On top of the scarcity of rainfall, aquifers have been overexploited for agriculture.

According to local media, royal police aircraft plan to seed clouds with salt crystals in an effort to induce rainfall artificially.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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