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The bustling African city four hours from London hoping to break records

Simon Calder’s Travel

Marrakech is a destination that wants to look forward.

Morocco’s Red City, famous for its history, gardens, and buzzing markets, has seen its share of recent upheaval.

In September 2023, as tourism was finally showing signs of returning to pre-Covid levels, a 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck just under 50 miles from the city in the Atlas Mountains. Roughly 3,000 people in the region were killed.

Much of the rubble that blocked the winding alleys of the 12th-century medina has now been cleared, but reminders still linger in the scaffolding and cracks in the walls along the market and fountains of the riad homes.

Visitor numbers to Marrakech dropped during the months that followed the quake, but they quickly returned. Ongoing conflict in the Middle East has also seen a decline in tourism, mainly from Israel and America; the full effect is still being counted.

A view of homes which were destroyed by the earthquake in Atlas mountain village of Anerni, near Marrakech (AP)

Those whose job it is to help one of Morocco’s most famous holiday destinations move on say the tragedies will only make the next few years even stronger.

“We don’t look back, we look forward,’ Mountassir Boullal, director manager for Visit Marrakech, says over a glass of sweet mint tea. ‘We are a city for everyone and we want everyone to visit.

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“Moroccans are some of the most welcoming people in the world. You can see that even from the way we pour our tea – from a great height. We want you to enjoy the hospitality, the theatre. Even over a glass of tea. We are proud that more people are seeing this hospitality every year.”

The city has adapted, he says. Once known as a backpacker’s destination, it has expanded into the luxury market and is now even pushing itself as a destination for digital nomads. New co-working spaces are opening every month across the city, although Morocco does not currently have a digital nomad visa.

Direct flights from Dubai to Marrakech Menara Airport are rumoured to be announced in the coming months.

Jardin Majorelle garden in Marrakech

“We have some of the world’s best hotels just a short walk away from hostels for under €20 a night,” Mountassir says, before going on to list the collection of A-list celebrities who have visited recently, from footballer Kylian Mbappe to former basketball player…

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