On Saturday, September 9, 2023, I landed in the Paris airport, my stopover en route to Marrakech, Morocco. I turned on my phone to find multiple messages asking if I was safe. Overnight, Morocco had been hit by a 6.8 magnitude earthquake. The news seemed dire, but I decided to continue on with my travel plans.
On arriving in Marrakech to a fully operational airport, I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I cleared customs and picked up my bag. Driving through the Marrakech streets, everything appeared as normal. It was only when driving through the old town that I saw some cracks in the walls of Marrakech and some rubble where parts of the wall had collapsed. My hotel was located in the historical Kasbah area in the heart of the medina. The narrow streets were full of people, shops were open, and the ubiquitous motorcycles were everywhere.
If I had not been in Marrakech, and just seen some of the reporting, I would have thought that Marrakech was flattened. It is only in the old city that the impact from the earthquake is seen. Mostly older buildings were affected. On Jemaa El Fnaa, the main square and marketplace in the medina, people were eating in restaurants and shopping at the numerous stalls, all right next to a building that had collapsed.
I think it’s important to note that Marrakech is about 45 mi / 72 km from the epicentre of the earthquake. The devastating damage and catastrophic death toll was predominantly in the High Atlas Mountains. At the same time I was in Marrakech, we had four of our team members doing a classic tour of Morocco, including Casablanca, Tangiers, Chefchaouen, Fez, Merzouga, and Ouarzazate. Other than the High Atlas Mountains, where efforts are ongoing to help the people most affected by the earthquake, Morocco is open for business and welcoming visitors.
So many of the ordinary Moroccans that I encountered have ties to the villages in the Atlas Mountains. They will be working harder than ever to send money to their families. The best thing we can do to support Morocco is to travel. Our tourist dollars go a long way to support the rebuilding of the desperately-needed infrastructure in the devastated areas. So if you have clients who have booked a trip to Morocco or were thinking of travelling there in the future, please ask them to continue with their plans. Morocco needs their support and their visit.