At 11.12 PM on Friday 8th September 2023, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck the Kingdom of Morocco. The epicentre was located in the High Atlas Mountain region, 45 miles south west of the city of Marrakech.
Whilst in Marrakech, the damage was fairly minimal, in the rural mountain villages it was catastrophic.
The death toll is now at 3000 and the casualties, 5600, both figures are still growing.
All of us who live, love, work in, have travelled in Morocco – are heartbroken and the tears are still flowing. This will take years to recover from and a lifetime to heal from – but the love that has shone through from the local people who have all pulled together and mobilised an astonishing aid effort, to the victims who wanted to offer what little they had to the helpers who came to them – I have seen the very best of humanity.
Where chaos ensues, there are always those that seek to take advantage and show us the worst of humanity but lets hope that Morocco is one step ahead and love will prevail.
The King of Morocco has declared a significant aid package and providing it can be delivered at a local level, there is hope and in hope we can find peace.
+ Marrakech was never overly affected. The damage was relatively minor and mostly confined to one part of the old medina.
+ No country in the world has issued an official travel warning against travelling to Morocco.
+ Airports were undamaged and remained open. There are tourists in Morocco and in Marrakech. The souks are open, the restaurants are open, and many attractions are open (some sites such as museums are closed until further notice!)
+ Roads remained open and unblocked on all routes except to these remote villages.
+ The situation in the rural mountain villages is still a tragedy. Entire villages are under rubble, there are still missing people and some remote areas are exceptionally hard to reach.
Our hearts break for these people but it is important to understand that this is localised and did not include the rest of Morocco. The other major cities of Casablanca, Rabat, Fes etc were not affected and nor were the desert or coastal areas.
+ Locals that lost their home need long-term help to rebuild.
+ Can you donate? Ask your hotel / tour operator for advice on how best to help.
+ What are my rights if I wish to cancel my trip? As the situation in Morocco is not considered serious from a touristic perspective, a decision not to travel is labelled “disinclination to travel” and as such refunds are not likely to be made.
+ Homes need to be re-built before the harsh winters, this is Morocco’s priority now.
+ The whole of the Mediteranean region is susceptible. Whilst there is a risk in Morocco, an earthquake of this magnitude was not expected and certainly not in this part of Morocco. An unprecedented situation like this could occur anywhere.
+ Moroccans believe that guests are gifts from God and never more so that now.
+Morocco needs trade as well as aid. The most positive impact you could possibly have is to come and spend your money locally as your tourist dollars are critical now.
+ If you are in the affected areas, be respectful when documenting / posting anything, don’t share the grief of individual people on social media.
+ Your visit will spread hope and support to people who have lost so very much.
+ The earthquake did not affect most of Morocco, why stay away from a whole country – worsening their situation?
+ There has been some appalling and frankly disgusting reporting around the earthquake, sensationalising the story for the sake of newspaper profits – be aware of that and don’t be a part of that.
+ Your visit will not be in the affected areas and so will not impact relief efforts. You will not be “in the way”.
Whilst no company is obligated to refund you in this situation, talk to them. Many, like us, will offer you the chance to donate your payment to the aid effort or to re-book at a future date.
You need to check with your agent, airline and insurers to get the full picture but as Morocco is not considered to be unsafe, it is unlikely that you will get your money back.
Remember that your support, whether through donations or tourism, will help us rebuild and restore the beautiful High Atlas Mountains and contribute to the recovery of this remarkable region.
Please follow us on Facebook @somorocco for long form posts about the situation in the days that immediately followed the earthquake.
There are so many organisations doing good work and a few not doing good work despite good intentions. We cannot list them all and so have chosen four for you that we know and trust. However our longer term aim is to find out how we as a business (with the support of our clients) can sponsor a family for the foreseeable future. We will keep in touch regarding this so please follow us on Facebook @somorocco
For donations we make the following recommendations.