Quake victims and tourists in historic Marrakesh districtTue, 12 Sep 2023 20:12:38 GMT

The Jewish quarter of Marrakesh’s medina was badly hit by Friday’s earthquake, and those visiting Morocco’s main tourist attraction now come across entire families living in the street.The quake killed more than 2,900 people, and many buildings were destroyed or badly damaged in the historic popular district of the old town, where residents live in fear of aftershocks.”Some people, like my parents, found refuge with relatives, but many others are now living in the street,” said 56-year-old Saida Mirouch, pointing to the cracks in the walls of the house where she grew up.”We don’t have the means to fix them. People came to inspect them, but they told us nothing. What do we do now? Will the house fall down? We don’t know,” she said.Housing ministry teams made site visits on Tuesday and architects were expected to come on Wednesday, but no official statements have yet been released.Chakib Benabdellah, head of Morocco’s National Council of the Order of Architects, told AFP: “we will carry out diagnostics to determine whether evacuation will be necessary” or buildings can be reinforced.”In earthquakes it’s not just the houses that fall — those that don’t come down sometimes pose a very significant danger,” he said.Many buildings in Marrakesh’s historic medina are constructed of ancient adobe — mud brick. This makes them much more fragile in the event of rain.”We will act as quickly as possible” to assess the risks, Benabdellah said.In the meantime, the people live in fear, jumping at the slightest tremor as excavators rumble through the narrow alleyways of the district they know as Essalam, but whose official name is El Mellah.- Makeshift camp -In 2017 it underwent significant renovation work estimated to cost more than 17.5 million euros, aimed at developing the district’s tourism potential.Originally built for the Jewish population of Marrakesh, it is now home to a large Muslim population of modest means who carry out small jobs in the medina, and where several families often share one house.The authorities have set up a reception centre for people in Marrakesh who now find themselves homeless, “but no one wants to go there because it’s too far away, outside the city”, Saida Mirouch said.Zeinab Khoulaki, a widow aged 67, told AFP she preferred to stay with her three children and four grandchildren in a makeshift encampment in the area.Thanks to the sense of solidarity among residents of the old town, they are not short of food and other necessities.But the children “have not had a change of clothing since Friday night” when the quake hit, and their school was also destroyed said Khoulaki, who makes a living on Jemaa el-Fna square giving henna tattoos to tourists.Some residents of the district complained, saying they did not know when they would again have a roof over their heads.”Where are the authorities? Where’s the government? Why don’t they set up real tents for us on one of the main squares?” asked an elderly lady who preferred not to be identified by name.”The tourists wouldn’t like that,” said another woman ironically.According to the Tourism Observatory in Morocco, around 6.7 million visitors came to the country in the first half of the year — more than 4.3 million of them to Marrakesh.