Marrakesh’s historic medina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is being assessed for damage following a 6.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the country.
During a tour of the 700-hectare old city on September 14th, officials noted significant destruction, including piles of rubble and collapsed buildings. The medina, founded by the Almoravid dynasty, which ruled over Morocco and part of Spain in the 11th and 12th centuries, has been deeply affected.
Architect Jawad el-Basur explained why some buildings couldn’t withstand the earthquake on September 15th, saying, “It was a devastating earthquake. It’s completely normal for the medina to be affected for a number of reasons. The first reason is the dilapidated state of the structure, but also the nature of its composition.”
He continued, “There is also the age of the dwellings and the lack of maintenance. All this means that the medina is somewhat affected.”
The 12th-century walls that surround the millennium-old city have also suffered damage. However, not all buildings were equally affected. El-Basur noted that buildings preserving their ancestral building techniques fared better than those with a mix of old and new construction materials like reinforced concrete, bricks, and breeze blocks.
Many of the medina’s buildings are constructed from ancient adobe or mud brick, making them more vulnerable to damage, especially in the event of rain. El-Basur warned that rain and aftershocks could further endanger these structures.
Despite the challenges, Marrakesh remains a popular tourist destination, attracting millions of visitors each year. In the first half of the year, around 6.7 million tourists came to Morocco, with over 4.3 million visiting Marrakesh. Tourism has played a significant role in the country’s economy, accounting for over 7% of its GDP in 2019. Morocco continues to be one of the most visited countries in Africa.