TAMOROT, Morocco- Hundreds of mourners gathered to pay their final respects on Monday to the Moroccan boy who died on Saturday after a days-long effort to rescue him from a well that transfixed the country and many abroad.
Five-year-old Rayan Awram fell into the well in Ighran village on Tuesday. His body was finally pulled out late on Saturday after rescuers excavated much of an adjacent hillside and then tunnelled toward the bottom of the well.
Hundreds of mourners climbed the hilly, unpaved road leading to the cemetery in Ighran, near Chefchaouen in northern Morocco, where they waited for hours for the funeral to observe the Muslim burial rituals.
"I am over 50-years-old and never seen as many people in a funeral. Rayan is the son of us all," one villager said.
There were so many mourners that they could not all fit into the village cemetery and prayer site. Two large tents were erected in front of the grieving family's house where mourners could stop to offer condolences.
"Rayan's death has renewed faith in humanity as people in different languages and from different countries express solidarity," another villager said.
On Saturday, condolences to the parents also came from King Mohammed VI, Pope Francis, French President Emmanuel Macron, Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid AL Maktoum and other notables.
Egyptian and Senegalese football players held a minute of silence on Sunday before the kickoff of the final of the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament.
Rescuers had worked ceaselessly at constant risk of triggering a landslide in their ultimately fruitless effort to pull out the child alive.
"I am very sad. We spared no effort to reach the boy alive. We excavated around the clock in five days what could have taken weeks," a volunteer digger, Ali Sahraoui, told reporters at the funeral.
(Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; Editing by Angus MacSwan) ((firstname.lastname@example.org;))