5 Things To Know About Earthquake-Hit Moroccan City, Marrakesh

The old Moroccan city of Marrakesh was severely damaged in a violent earthquake that killed at least 820 people, the majority of whom were in rural and difficult-to-reach areas.

Here are five facts about the Ochre City, named after the color of its masonry.

1. Top tourist destination

The 11th century city of palms and magnificent palaces, located at the foot of the snow-capped Atlas mountains, is Morocco’s main tourist attraction, attracting over two million people each year.

The labyrinthine medina, or old town, is one of the largest in North Africa and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Its tiny alleys are generally thronged with visitors haggling over the costs of everything from leather slippers to spices or admiring its gorgeous riads (palaces), with its exquisite zellige tiles, central courtyards, and fountains.


2. Storytellers and snake charmers

The large Jemaa el-Fna square, which comes alive each night with dancers, storytellers, snake charmers, and dozens of food booths filled with traditional Moroccan cuisine, is Marrakesh’s beating heart.

The minaret of the 12th-century Koutoubia mosque towers over the area.

In 2011, a popular cafe on Jemaa el-Fna was bombed, killing 17 people, the majority of whom were foreign visitors. According to police, the attackers were supporters of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network.

Rescuers search for survivors under the rubble of a collapsed house in Moulay Brahim, Al Haouz province, on September 9, 2023, after an earthquake. – (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

3. Giant oasis

One of Marrakesh’s other major attractions is a massive oasis with tens of thousands of palm trees that is as old as the city itself.

Apart from offering relief from the scorching heat, the palm is a major supplier of dates, which are an important element in Moroccan cuisine.

Conservationists have warned that urbanization and mass tourism — resorts with golf courses erected among the palms, pushed by Club Med — are shrinking the oasis.

4. Yves Saint Laurent

Yves Saint Laurent, the legendary French fashion designer, fell in love with Marrakesh in 1966.

The city had a significant impact on his work, notably his use of color.

Saint Laurent, who died in 2008, spent time there every year while designing his collections with his longtime companion Pierre Berge.

A museum dedicated to his creations opened in the city in 2017, one of the last memorials to the Berge designer, who died that year.


5. Film festival

Every November, Hollywood stars gather on Marrakesh for the international film festival, with some screenings held beneath the stars in Jemaa el-Fna.

Among those who have walked the red carpet in a country that has long been a favorite venue for international film shootings are Sharon Stone, Martin Scorsese, Sigourney Weaver, and Robert de Niro.

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