Late in the evening of September 8, a powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck Morocco, killing more than 2,000 people and injuring many. The epicenter of the earthquake was located high in the Atlas Mountains, about 44 miles southwest of Marrakech. Many of the affected villages in this region are remote and difficult to reach.
Regrettably, despite the distance from the epicenter, the relatively low magnitude of the earthquake combined with the older infrastructure in the medina of Marrakech caused significant damage and building collapses in this popular tourist destination. Rescue work in the affected areas is ongoing.
If you are planning to travel to Marrakech in the near future, be sure to stay informed about the situation.
Which regions have experienced the impact of the earthquake?
Since the epicenter of the earthquake is in the Atlas Mountains, the effects are felt mainly in central Morocco. In Marrakech, the nearest major tourist center, the earthquake has caused damage and collapses of buildings. Most of this damage is concentrated in the medina, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the oldest neighborhood in the city. This is largely due to the historic nature of the buildings in this area, which were not designed with earthquake resistance in mind.
Which regions remain unaffected by the earthquake?
Although the earthquake caused seismic tremors as far away as Portugal and Spain, most of the damage was confined to areas near the epicenter. On the west coast, cities such as Agadir and Essaouira were virtually unharmed despite some damage to building facades. The effects of the earthquake did not reach Casablanca, the capital Rabat, Fez or Tangier, traveling further north. If you have future intentions to visit these areas, keeping your reservations would be greatly appreciated by the local communities, many of which rely on tourism, for a living.
It is safe to travel to Morocco right now?
The Atlas Mountains are the scene of continuous rescue operations, and numerous highways are closed. It is advisable to check with your tour operator to see if Marrakech is part of your itinerary. There will likely be aftershocks in the region over the next few days, and it will be important to determine how badly damaged structures are, particularly in the medina. In addition, the area will be involved in rescue operations, making travel there pointless in the coming weeks. After that, it is better to wait and see. The city lives largely on tourism. So as soon as it is safe and reasonable, visitors will be welcome again.
The earthquake had minimal repercussions on the rest of the country, therefore, there is no reason to consider canceling your trip.
Is Marrakesh airport still operational?
Marrakesh airport has remained operational, with flights to and from the city proceeding without disruption. The aspects that may have potential impacts for visitors include accommodation and any pre-booked tours.
What is the official travel guidance provided by the Foreign Office?
The UK Foreign Office has not issued any travel advisories or warnings related to Morocco in light of the earthquake. It only advised: “You should follow local media and safety instructions from local authorities.”