Earthquake in Morocco devastates country’s cultural heritage


Earthquake in Morocco devastates country’s cultural heritage

A view shows the damaged Great Mosque of Tinmal, a 12th-century mosque that has been proposed for listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in the village of Tinmel, Morocco, September 12, 2023. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

At least 27 historic sites in the Marrakesh region were destroyed or damaged by the earthquake that killed more than 2,900 people.

Cracked fortifications, collapsed mosques and damaged palaces are just some of the results of the magnitude 7 earthquake that struck Morocco on the night of September 8. It left 2,901 people dead and 5,530 injured according to a provisional toll. It also reduced heritage gems to rubble. According to the Moroccan online publication Medias24, 27 historic sites were destroyed, mainly in Marrakesh, Taroudant and Ouarzazate.

You can share an article by clicking on the share icons at the top right of it.
The total or partial reproduction of an article, without the prior written authorization of Le Monde, is strictly forbidden.
For more information, see our Terms and Conditions.
For all authorization requests, contact

In the town of Talat N’Yaqoub, close to the epicenter of the earthquake, the Tinmal Mosque collapsed. It was a symbol of the Almohad dynasty and the subject of a major restoration program. Near Ouarzazate, the fortified village of Ait-Ben-Haddou tottered. The village served as the setting for the film Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962) and a few episodes of the series Game of Thrones (in 2013). The vernacular earthen dwellings and their labyrinth of alleyways are severely damaged, while the community granary dating back to the 17th century has been reduced to dust.

Access to certain areas remains difficult, as the earthquake engulfed the roads. With the urgent need to supply hundreds of thousands of homeless people, the cleared roads have been requisitioned for rescue operations. “It’s a humanitarian catastrophe. We talk about heritage preservation with humility, and we’re waiting our turn,” said Krista Pikkat, director of culture and emergencies at UNESCO, whose permanent office in Rabat is in close contact with the Moroccan authorities.

Assessing the damage

The extent of the damage is best seen in Marrakesh, where a UNESCO team was dispatched on September 9. In the medina, a World Heritage site since 1985, many buildings have collapsed, particularly in the heart of the old Jewish quarter of the Mellah. The minaret of the Kharbouch Mosque is now a pile of rubble. The Bahia and El Badi palaces, as well as the emblematic Koutoubia minaret overlooking Djemaa El-Fna square, have withstood the tremors, although with worrying cracks.