Marrakech, Capital of Tourism
Marrakech is the most touristic city in Morocco. At peak season, the ochre city attracts thousands of foreigners mostly coming from all over Europe. This is the result of an increase in low cost flights in the last decade. But Marrakech is not like any other city in Morocco. It is an important cultural, religious and historical place. It has, along with Fez, one of the most important imperial Moroccan Medinas. Its location between the Atlantic coast and the Atlas mountains make it the perfect location to explore the surrounding area. Marrakesh is also an important trading hub between the South, Casablanca and the rest of the country. As a result, it is a place where mass tourism meets the diversity of the Moroccan population and culture, where westernization meets the Moroccan tradition. Its main square, Djemaa El Fna expresses this contrast.
Tourism and Tradition
Every night, between the Koutoubia mosque and the entrance of the souk, Djemaa El Fna square turns into one of the biggest and liveliest free entertainment places on earth. Story tellers, street restaurants, fake Gnawa, entertainers, performers, healthcare stalls, snake charmers, traditional music bands, marabouts, henna sellers all mix together in an effervescent atmosphere. It is the place where Marrakchi have been cultivating their traditions for more than a hundred years. But some traditions are about to disappear. A barber sitting outside his shop in the Medina of Marrakech told me that story tellers were in decline while the number of restaurants on the square were increasing. Mentalities are also changing. He added that fifteen years ago, it would have been impossible to sell alcohol inside the Medina. Surrounding the square are hotels and restaurants offering the opportunity to experience the essence of Marrakech while enjoying a more Western way of life.
The Medina, symbol of the Muslim Culture
Medinas are the symbol and the realisation of Islamic culture. They are respected places for their history, their religious culture and traditions. And so some Moroccan people are skeptical about what tourism and westernisation can bring to their cultures inside the Medina. As Marrakech lost a bit of its soul while increasing its tourism activity? Some truly believe it. A Medina like Fez, which has a very conservative opinion of its culture and which is trying to attract more tourism in the next few years does not look at the Ochre city with desire and jealousy.
Images shown on this slideshow were taken in 2008 and 2011 and are part of a long term project about the Medinas of Morocco.