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Marrakech: Bruised but Not Broken

4 min read
Marrakech: Bruised but Not Broken

All of us at Tauck were heartbroken to learn of the tragic earthquake that impacted Morocco, and particularly the villages of the Atlas Mountains, on September 8th, 2023. Hundreds in our extended Tauck family were in Morocco as recently as February for our annual tour director seminar – and we were all struck by the amazing beauty of both its landscape and its people. Our hearts go out to everyone impacted.

Kelly Rossiter, the Senior Product Manager who designs and manages our tours in Africa, including the “Magic of Morocco” tour, landed in Morocco the morning after the earthquake and shares the following firsthand account of what she experienced there.

Kelly Rossiter, Senior Product Manager

“I happened to be flying to Morocco for a conference in Marrakech and was in the air when the earthquake struck on Friday, September 8th at 11:11PM. I landed in Marrakech the following morning and remained there until September 15th, so all of the observations here are based on my own personal, first-hand experience.

The earthquake struck about 50 miles from Marrakech, with the epicenter closer to the Atlas Mountains. Tragically there have been just under 3,000 deaths confirmed in Morocco, with 14 of those deaths in Marrakech. All the other deaths were in the Atlas Mountains, which was mainly due to the unstable terrain, many of the homes being built of stacked rocks plastered with mud, and a general lack of preparedness because earthquakes don’t typically occur in that part of Morocco. The devastation in the mountain villages has been heartbreaking.

I’m sure you have seen reports and images of crumbled buildings and displaced Moroccans. Whereas the recovery in the mountains will take months, if not years, the recovery in Marrakech was immediate. To be sure, some buildings in Marrakech were destroyed and others were damaged, but together they only equate to a small percentage of all the structures in the city. Marrakech was already open for business by the time I landed on Saturday.

Local restaurant featured in the news

While there, I watched a news organization crop the background behind a reporter to just a part of a restaurant that had a floor cave in. Had the cameraman moved the camera a few inches in either direction, he would have captured cafes full of patrons and roads full of cars and trucks carrying on with their normal business. If the cameraman had turned the camera completely around, he would have captured the Koutoubia Tower, built in the 12th century, and standing proud without any major damage. Instead, the news crew deliberately chose this one damaged restaurant to represent all of the buildings in Marrakech.

Koutoubia Tower still standing proud

360 video of Marrakech taken by Kelly

During my stay, I personally visited every location featured on our “Magic of Morocco” tour. I also stayed at the Four Seasons Resort Marrakech, which is used on our itinerary. Without exception, all of the venues sustained zero or only minimal damage. The iconic monuments of the city, like the Bahia Palace that we visit, were not severely damaged. Out of an abundance of caution, many have closed temporarily while engineers confirm their structural integrity and will reopen when all safety checks have been completed.

The remainder of my week was spent representing Tauck and collaborating with Care Highway International and Education for All, two organizations that typically focus on helping children, mostly girls, access quality education. Both have turned their efforts to helping the families in the Atlas Mountains, and I was honored to be able to assist them in getting food and shelter to some of the more remote villages there.

These remote villages are where help is sorely needed. Many of the guides, drivers, wait staff and other hospitality workers in Marrakech grew up in the mountains and have families there still. They come to the city to find work in hotels, restaurants, and tour venues and use that income to support their families in the mountains. They need tourism dollars to continue flowing into Marrakech. Visiting Morocco now will not only provide you with an incredible travel experience, but also deliver genuine humanitarian support to a place and people in need.

We look forward to hosting more journeys in this remarkable destination, and to introducing more guests to a proud and welcoming people who will truly appreciate visitors to their bruised, but not broken, country.”

As our thoughts and hearts go out to the people in Morocco, Tauck is aiding two meaningful non-profit organizations:

EDUCATION FOR ALL runs boarding houses for girls from the rural communities of the High Atlas Mountains, in order to continue their education. These houses were severely damaged from the earthquake and our donations will be used for food, medical supplies and house repairs in these rural communities. Donations can be made here, in US Dollars and in the following currencies: AUD, CAD, EUR and GBP.

CARE HIGHWAY INTERNATIONAL (CHI) is a children’s charity founded in 1997 by our own Tauck Director, Chris Morrison, to improve children’s health, nutrition and access to education. In response to the earthquake, CHI has partnered with The British Moroccan Society, a charity organization operating in Morocco, and together they have organized some vehicles to head to the villages with medical supplies, blankets and water. Donations can be made here, in US Dollars, with an option to select your Country or Region.

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