Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Marrakech and the European invasion.

Greta Riemersma has been writing for the Dutch daily De Volkskrant since 1993, and serving as its Moroccan correspondent since 2007. Before that she was chief editor of Groningen University's newspaper for three years. Her recent article on the impact that the huge numbers of Europeans buying into Marrakech is having, is worth reading. Here is an extract

Has Marrakech sold out to Europe?

8,000 foreigners out of one million inhabitants is not that big a deal, but their presence is increasingly conspicuous. Modern downtown Marrakech has taken on something of a Franco-Italo-Spanish air, replete with shops like Zara and Etam patronised by a mostly European clientele. There’s even a McDonald’s and a Pizza Hut – and a picture of Charlie Chaplin in front of one café. The jet set have also discovered Marrakech. Actor Alain Delon and couturier Yves Saint Laurent had houses there, as do famous footballers Zinedine Zidane and Raúl. Nicolas Sarkozy and Hillary Clinton don’t own property there, but they do come regularly. Marrakech has taken on an aura of glitz and glamour, and prices have never been so steep.

A change that benefits both communities

Property prices in particular as more and more Europeans buy, fix up and then resell old houses – a trend that is catching on with wealthy Moroccans, too. Another way to make money is to put up a building on every vacant lot. It is this sea change in the cityscape that riles the French shopkeeper of L’Artisan Parfumeur. She steps out of her perfumery and shows me a rundown ochre house. “That’s what Marrakech used to look like, full of little houses,” she sighs. Then she points to a sprawling housing complex in the same street: “And that’s what it is now: Marrakech has lost her soul.”

You can read the full story here: Has Marrakech sold out to Europe?

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