Welcome back to another episode of the TravelPulse Podcast!
15.09.2023 - 16:56 / edition.cnn.com
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Thousands of people are known to have killed in the Morocco earthquake, with the death toll expected to rise as rescuers continue to search for survivors. As the country’s King Mohammed VI thanks Spain, Qatar, the UK and the UAE for sending aid, stories are emerging of the devastating impact on local communities.
If you were due to travel to Morocco, should you still go? Your instinct might be to stay away, as going on vacation in a country in national mourning seems unseemly. However, that’s not necessarily the best course of action, say those on the ground. Here’s what to know about travel to Morocco as the situation continues to unfold.
The epicenter of the 6.8-magnitude earthquake, which hit on Friday night, was in the High Atlas mountain range, about 72 miles southwest of Marrakech, in the province of Al Haouz, which has had the highest number of casualties.
It was felt strongly in Marrakech, where the historic medina has been damaged. Seaside cities popular with vacationers such as Essaouira and Agadir also felt it strongly, while the quake was felt as far north as Casablanca and Fez, around 300 miles northeast of Marrakech (although no damage has been done in either city, or the north of the country as a whole).
It is the deadliest earthquake in Morocco in over 60 years.
“When the earthquake struck it caused a lot of fear and confusion – Morocco is not used to earthquakes, and it took some time for the local authorities to provide advice” says Zina Bencheikh, Intrepid Travel’s Morocco-based managing director EMEA. The company had around 650 travelers in the country when the quake hit.
“Outside of the Atlas Mountains and the [Marrakech] medina, most of the country is now running as usual, with transport including trains and other services continuing to operate as usual, including airports.”
The quake has caused damage in the medina, or old town. A mosque in Jemaa el-Fna, the iconic square that doubles as the heart of the city, is “barely recognizable,” according to CNN’s Ivana Kottasová, who has been reporting from Marrakech. Its ornate tower has “almost entirely collapsed.”
As of September 11, all historical monuments in Marrakech were closed until further notice, including key sites such as the Bahia Palace, Saadian Tombs and El Badi Palace.
However, private museums, galleries and institutions are already open, as are the souks, where storeowners told the AFP news agency that there are already concerns about plummeting visitor numbers.
Public transportation has resumed and is now running normally.
Welcome back to another episode of the TravelPulse Podcast!
Out in a flat plain of reddish sand against a wide blue sky, a group of men set up a baseball field. The home base is made from a green plastic crate propped on a tire, and the players stand in an outfield, stark figures against an expansive horizon. Spanish phrases interlay the general chitchat in Arabic. The batter crouches, ready for the ball, as the pitcher pivots his leg to throw. His ball strikes the ground far ahead of the plate, and the batter stands straight as if to say, ‘Come on? Really?’
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Next week will be our 10th annual Skift Global Forum, happening September 26-28, 2023 in New York City. After several years of recovery, it’s clear this year is finally a moment when the industry can finally look ahead to the long-term, while also adapting to a rapidly changing digital future that will be more autonomous and more connected than ever before in history.
This month’s earthquake in Morocco claimed thousands of lives and left many homeless, including workers in the tourism sector, who are sleeping in empty hotel ballrooms or apartments rented out by their employers, according to the properties we spoke to.
“My family is safe,” our tour guide Sara Chakir said as we huddled in the streets outside Fez’s medina, waiting for aftershocks until the early hours. Morocco’s 6.8 magnitude earthquake had struck last Friday, 350 miles away in the Al Haouz region of the High Atlas mountains at just after 11pm. It was enough to send our riad swaying, but there was no apparent damage to people or place. It was only in the morning that the scale of destruction elsewhere was clear. Another tour guide, Hossain ait Mhand, said: “My family is fine, but others in their town are not so lucky – homes have been flattened.”
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) stands in solidarity with the people of Morocco during this tragic time. The news of the devastating earthquake in the High Atlas mountains, the deadliest in 60 years, has deeply moved us all. We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families who have lost loved ones, and to the numerous communities shattered by this disaster.
Morocco is a fantastic year-round vacation destination, but choosing the best time of year to travel will depend on your interests and holiday needs.
The Kasbah La Dame Bija guesthouse in Morocco’s picturesque Ouirgane Valley escaped unscathed from an earthquake that devastated the area, but the owner’s bookings collapsed and he worries about whether the region can revive its tourist appeal.
Travelers from around 70 countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the European Union and the United Kingdom, can travel to Morocco as tourists without a visa. The maximum stay is 90 days, which starts on the date of your entry stamp, not three calendar months.
Morocco is a family-centric, peaceful country with genuine warmth and love for children of all ages. It's home to cultures where large families are standard – a family of five to six children, and multi-generational homes are considered the norm. It's not unusual for people you've just met to offer kisses, hugs, and cadeaus (gifts) for your kids. Traveling with kids to Morocco can open doors to unique experiences, connecting you deeper to its people and your own family.
“Morocco is open, Morocco is safe, and Morocco is still an incredible place to visit.”