the battered old town of Marrakech

By Le Figaro with AFP

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If the historic sites of Marrakech have benefited in recent years from restoration operations and the know-how of master craftsmen, this is not the case for all the buildings in the area. ABDELHAK BALHAKI / REUTERS

Gutted homes, mounds of rubble, disfigured ramparts… Significant damage has been deplored in the medina of the imperial city, hit by the violent earthquake which left more than 2,000 dead.

That’s solid!», taps Fatima Sanoussi with her wrinkled hand on the walls of her house. Hers resisted to the Friday evening earthquakedozens of others do not, and the damage is significant in the Moroccan city of Marrakech with a rich architectural heritage. Yellow jellaba and black kerchief on her head, the 68-year-old lady sweeps the stones and dust in front of the arch that leads to her modest accommodation.

On the 700 hectares of the medina, the old town, the damage is impressive in places, with gutted housing and, in the network of alleys, mounds of rubble sometimes rising several meters high. The 12th century ramparts surrounding the imperial city, founded around 1070 by the Almoravid dynasty, are partly disfigured.

Read alsoEarthquake in Morocco: five things to know about Marrakech, the “ochre city”

The province of Al-Haouz, epicenter of the earthquake which left more than 2,000 dead according to a provisional report, is approximately 70 kilometers southwest of this tourist jewel in central Morocco. “After a disaster like this, the most important thing is to preserve human lives. But we must also immediately plan for the second phase, which will include the reconstruction of schools and cultural properties affected by the earthquake.», Comments Eric Falt, regional director of the UNESCO Office for the Maghreb. Marrakech is full of these places which have been listed as world heritage by the UN agency for education, science and education since 1985.

The Jemaa el-Fna square, for example, known in particular for its snake charmers and its henna sellers, is included both on the UNESCO world heritage list and on the representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. . A few hours after the violent earthquake, a team from the United Nations, led by Mr. Falt, inspected the medina for two hours. “We can already say that they (the damage) are much greater than expected. We noted significant s on the Koutoubia minaret, the most emblematic structure, but also the almost complete destruction of the minaret of the Kharbouch mosque» on the Jemaa el-Fna square, notes Eric Falt.

“Big disparities”

A few meters from this mosque with weakened walls, merchants are placed on their stools, waiting for customers, and on the other side of the street, a café from the 1960s welcomes customers despite the large that stripes the one of its interior walls. “The district obviously most affected, however, is the Mellah (former Jewish quarter) where the destruction of old houses is most spectacular.», adds Mr. Falt. There, one-story houses with stone that turns pink in the sun have been reduced to nothing. Iron bars or other makeshift consolidations were placed to support the sagging walls.

If the historic sites have benefited in recent years from restoration operations and the know-how of master craftsmen, particularly in the art of tadelakt, an ancestral technique of applying lime coatings typical of Marrakech, this This is not the case for all buildings in the area. “There are big disparities», Says, from the Douar Graoua district, Sylvain Schroeder. This Frenchman is the owner of one of the dozens of riads which have also contributed to the charm of the tourist town. The calm of its patio and the brightly colored zelliges clash with the desolation of the neighboring poor homes. “The water in the pool has moved, but that’s it, the rest is intact“, he said, pointing to the walls, the beams and the lemon tree. “There are reinforced concrete frames here as in many riads which have recently been renovated, the structure has been reinforced“, he ures. On the other side of the alley, the large walls of a residential building threaten to collapse. According to Mr. Schroeder, “at the slightest rain, they risk falling like a house of cards“.

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