As much of the world begins to emerge from lockdown, people are looking back at time spent cut off from friends, family and colleagues by the coronavirus and forward to what happens next. Reuters has captured some of those reflections along with portraits from across Africa and the Middle East of people inside their rooms looking out and outside looking in.
“The lockdown … has been a great time for me to breathe, to re-evaluate how I’ve been living my life and trying to focus more on the things that truly matter to me,” said Adetona Omokanye, a 29-year-old photographer who lives in Lagos. Alexander Caiafas, from the same teeming Nigerian city, has also seen the bright side of being cooped up at home. The data analyst, 25, has relished time spent with family, on his studies and connecting with friends online.
But in rural Eastern Cape Province in South Africa, housewife Zodidi Desewula drew little comfort from weeks in her tiny, cylindrical “rondavel”. “Myself and my husband were stuck in this single room house unable to go to work. We were struggling in getting food to eat because there was no income,” she told Reuters.
For Yael Ben Ezer, a performer with Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company, there is something to be said for doing nothing. “I will miss the comfortable feeling of ‘it’s OK not to do anything, it’s OK not to be productive in the way we usually think’,” she said. “Things would come and go, the sun would rise and set, and I would just be living. And that’s totally enough.”
For her and many others, there are also plenty of downsides to life away from friends and work.She craves the adrenaline rush of dancing on stage, and the open expanse of the sea. In the Egyptian capital Cairo, Nada Maged, a 20-year-old student, described lockdown as “prison”.
“When I look out I see the same view but have a different feeling – the streets are more sad and mysterious, and there is no hope of getting out soon,” she said. Zineb Mohamed “Om Hany” also lives in the city, and misses regular contact with her family and friends.
“I need to go to the zoo with my grandchildren,” the 59-year-old concierge said in a sparsely furnished room with the television glowing through the gloom. “Also, I want to take them to the sea – I dream about that many times.” With a sea view from her window in the ancient Lebanese city of Tyre, Lama Nadra, 28, has the luxury of seeing it every day.
“I like the calm and being away from the noise of the capital, Beirut,” she said, adding that once she was free to move around she wants to go swimming again. For her, the end of lockdown will mean seeing family less. “My brother will go back to Dubai and I … to Beirut. I will be separated from my father and mother too.” For many though, the pandemic has brought little noticeable change.
Abu Ghazi lives in a makeshift tent on the edge of a cemetery in Syria’s northern town of Maarat Misrin. Like millions of his compatriots displaced by nine years of war, he longs to return home. “We quarantined ourselves with the dead,” the 53-year-old told Reuters. “We wake up and sleep looking at graves.”