Arriving in Marrakech four days after a deadly earthquake hit Morocco, Dubai-based vlogger and solo traveller Dr Angelo Santos said life is back to normal in the streets of the ancient city. He also urged fellow travellers not to cancel their trips as it's safe to visit and any income from tourism can help people recover from the natural calamity.

Santos has over 155,000 followers on Instagram and he has been posting photos and videos of his holiday in Marrakech since Tuesday (September 12) – from his sumptuous breakfast at a riad (traditional Moroccan house) to his visit at the famous botanical garden and scenes of street life just outside the famous Marrakech Medina.

The pictures and videos were not meant to whitewash the tragedy but to offer a different perspective from the grim devastation that hit the country. “Life has to go on,” said Santos, adding: “The Moroccans have displayed great resiliency.”

‘Please tell the world Marrakech is safe’

Speaking to Khaleej Times on Thursday, Santos said: “I’m checking into my second riad now. The owner asked me to spread the word that Marrakech is safe. After the earthquake, many businesses in the hospitality and tourism sectors have experienced huge losses because reservations and trips were cancelled.

“But what people only saw were rubbles from the mountains,” noted Santos, explaining: “The epicentre of the 6.8 magnitude earthquake was around 70km southwest of Marrakech, the Unesco World Heritage Site that is one of the busiest in Africa and a major economic centre and tourist destination.”

Santos noted rescue efforts are still focused on remote mountain villages but life in the city is thriving again. “Keep your trips as planned and support local businesses, including hotels, riad owners and artisans in the souqs,” he advised.

He shared: “There was no issue at the airport when I arrived; even passport control procedures went smoothly and quickly. It has been business as usual. I believe my visit can help and support local tourism industry as the Moroccan government only placed restrictions at affected areas.

“I went to the souqs and Jardin Majorelle (purchased and restored by fashion designer Yves St. Laurent) after I settled in my riad, and I saw the locals continuing with their daily lives. I kept on posting almost real-time on Facebook and Instagram to spread the word that it’s safe to travel even solo to Morocco few days after the earthquake. My little gesture would somehow promote their tourism industry and confirm safety for tourists who have pre-planned travels to Morocco just like me,” Santos added.

Birthday holiday

Santos, who is turning 47 on September 18 is on a birthday holiday. His trip to Morocco is part of his 17-day trip across Europe and Africa.

His trip to Morocco was his second. He said: “My plans were geared towards revisiting cities and countries that became my favourites in terms of food, places, heritage sites, architecture, culture and total vibe in general.

“My first trip to Morocco was few years ago and it involved three cities up north - Rabat, the capital city; Chefchaouen, the blue city at the foot of Rif mountain, and Medina of Fez. I had fond memories of my first travel in Morocco and I decided to revisit this year, with a new city on my list – Marrakech,” he added.

Santos continued: “Before my flight to Morocco, I asked the management of the two riads that I booked about their situation after the earthquake. They replied positively that they were open and that confirmation reduced my anxiety to travel to Morocco.

“I am thankful to those who sent messages inquiring about my situation in Morocco. A lot has been spread on the news and social media about the tragedy and only few are reporting that it is safe to travel in Morocco. I cannot blame people who are not here – they only rely on what they read and hear online. That is why I feel obliged to tell them and the public that I am safe and life has to go on,” Santos underscored.

Impact on economy

The number of casualties from the earthquake that struck several Moroccan provinces on September 8 has reached around 3,000 while injuries have reached over 5,700. The earthquake's epicentre was high in the Atlas Mountains, where majority of the deaths happened.

Despite sustaining damages from the earthquake, airports and flights to and from Marrakech are fully operational; riads, hotels, souks, public markets, restaurants, cafes, gardens and palaces are open as usual. Other popular tourist destinations such as Agadir and Essaouira only saw minor damages to buildings. Casablanca, Tangier, and Rabat likewise escaped significant loss from the earthquake.

The importance of tourism to Morocco’s economy cannot be understated. The industry has contributed about 11 per cent to the country's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2022, and the government is hoping the earthquake will not hamper its projection to return to pre-pandemic levels this year.

Santos said Marrakech and its people are focused on rebuilding the city. He and travel operators are hopeful that things will be back to normal soon in the city.

“I really encourage people to come to Morocco,” Santos reiterated, adding: It’s also an act of support to come and visit Morocco.”

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