Marrakesh languishes without its tourists

By Javier Otazu

Marrakesh, Morocco, Sep 9 (efe-epa).- The cacophonous pulse of the souks and the famed Jemaa el-Fna square in Marrakesh has in recent months given over to an eerie silence after authorities put a stopper on international tourism to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Morocco.

Thousands of the city’s 1.5 million inhabitants rely directly on the tourism industry, working as tour guides, waiters, souvenir sellers and taxi drivers. In 2019, Marrakesh drew in around 3 million visitors from around the world.

Nowadays most of the businesses on the Jemaa el-Fna square are shuttered, the snake charmers and henna artists gone, and only a few orange juice stalls remain open. But there are no customers.

The luxurious Mamounia hotel, haunt of the rich and famous, is closed for business — its owners deciding to use the time for renovations.

Many of the shops in the labyrinthine souks are closed, and only a few merchants decide to open up in the hope of making a sale.

“On a normal day I get maybe four or five customers,” Abdelatif, who sells traditional kaftan robes, tells Efe. “There are days when I get none. In reality, I open just to get out of the house.”

The normally bustling Souk Semmarine, the nerve-center of the Medina, is now a sorry parade of closed stores without a foreign tourist in sight.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the souks of Marrakesh were home to 10,000 stalls and the restaurants fed some 40,000 people.

For years Marrakesh has tailored its economy towards the foreign visitors and locals are often unable to keep up with the inflated price tags in the city’s tourist zones.

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