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HomeWorldMorocco Earthquake Badly Damages Cultural Sites | International news

Morocco Earthquake Badly Damages Cultural Sites | International news

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A team of archaeologists, historians and engineers had almost completed a month-long restoration of the Tinmel Mosque, a 1,000-year-old jewel of Moorish architecture located deep in the mountains of Morocco, when a powerful earthquake struck. the area a week ago.

By the time it was finished, the intricate domes and elegant arches, first built by the dynasty that conquered parts of Spain and North Africa in the 12th century, had collapsed.

Tinmel was “a reflection of an extraordinary civilization, the apogee of this civilization,” said Abdallah Fili, an archaeologist and professor at El Jadida University who led the restoration. “It was a beautiful project. Unfortunately, fate decided otherwise.”

After the disasterMoroccans mourned their mothers, children, cousins, neighbors and friends. More than 3,000 people died in total, including five of the workers restoring the Tinmel mosque who lived nearby. Many of the survivors lost their homes and everything in them.

But Morocco also suffered a very different kind of loss with the damage or destruction of some of its rich heritage: revered mosques, exquisitely tiled palaces in Marrakesh, and ancient hilltop citadels built by the indigenous Amazighs, or Berbers, who long They dominated the mountains where the earthquake hit hardest.

Word spread for the first time about Marrakech’s best-known monuments.

Video from the 12th century. Koutoubia Mosque, a symbol of the city and a tourist magnet that towers over the oldest part of Marrakech, showed its famous minaret swinging back and forth during the earthquake, emitting puffs of dust. Cracks appeared inside.

But it was spared the fate of the Kharbouch Mosque, which sits at one end of Djemaa El Fna Square, the heart of the city and a major tourist attraction filled with musicians, henna artists and food stalls. The mosque’s minaret completely collapsed, injuring several people when it fell.

“We are scared and very psychologically upset,” said Khadija Chuegra, who saw the minaret collapse while fleeing her nearby home during the earthquake.

She was now near the Koutoubia mosque, where she and other Marrakesh residents once prayed regularly, filling it during the holy fasting month of Ramadan or the days of Eid. Her plaza had been closed off with metal barriers and police tape while experts assessed the damage, but no final diagnosis had been made, according to a government official.

“I would love to go there and pray for the dead,” Ms. Chuegra said, “but I’m afraid it will collapse.”

Elsewhere in Marrakech, several museums, as well as the 16th-century El Badi Palace (often translated as “The Incomparable”) and the late 19th-century El Bahia (“The Beautiful”) Palace, were closed to visitors. Experts have deemed them to be in serious condition, and on Wednesday what appeared to be materials to shore up the El Badi structure were piled up outside the palace.

The palaces are located in the city’s old walled core, known as the Medina, a sprawling web of narrow alleys lined with gates that can lead to humble or sumptuous apartments. riads — mansions built around courtyards and, in many cases, converted into guest houses. Residents said the homes’ seemingly intact or slightly cracked exterior walls hid serious destruction inside.

“Don’t be fooled by all this,” said Jamila Fouzi, 45, a resident of Mellah, the historic Jewish neighborhood in Marrakech’s medina, as her neighbors packed their belongings into bulging shopping bags, too worried about the state from their houses to sleep there. “Another tremor and all these walls will collapse.”

While relief operations are still underway in the worst-affected rural areas near Marrakesh, the extent of damage to the numerous heritage sites scattered across the Atlas Mountains remains unclear.

The region is replete with monuments of historical importance, including prehistoric rock carvings, Amazigh casbahs, and Muslim and Jewish shrines, mausoleums, mosques, and tombs. Located in remote villages, many have long been abandoned, especially compared to their much better known urban counterparts.

Two of the mountain sites now at least partially ruined were monuments to the once-dominant power of the Amazigh tribal chiefs who ruled the Atlas Mountains, including the Glaoui and Goundafi families. They built enormous citadels, or casbahs, rising over mountain passes as symbols of their power and influence.

When Morocco separated from FranceDuring Saudi Arabia’s rule, families lost prominence and casbahs (now symbols of defiance toward the new authorities) were left to rot, said Brahim El Guabli, a professor at Williams College who researches Amazigh and Arab culture.

The casbahs were “brilliant demonstrations of Amazigh architectural knowledge,” he said. “It is important to preserve the craft and meticulous construction patience that went into making them for future generations, even after the material effects of the earthquake have passed.”

The Gundafi casbah, which was near the epicenter of the earthquake, is now virtually destroyed, Professor El Guabli said.

The 18th-century Glaoui casbah in the village of Telouet, which the Glaouis adorned as an Arab royal palace at the height of their power and wealth, was already largely in ruins before the earthquake. Now, the intact part that visitors could see before the disaster is also severely damaged, according to Abderrahman El Glaoui, a descendant who helps oversee the family’s casbah.

In ancient times, the casbah protected the trade route between the northern and southern Atlas mountain ranges, where Mecca-bound pilgrims also passed through on their way from southern Morocco across the Sahara to Algeria and eventually Saudi Arabia. It now dominates a kilometer-long swath of total destruction.

El Glaoui said his family lacked the means to restore the ruins and would seek government support, support that has previously been absent in this region, both for heritage sites and marginalized villages.

“After the sadness, after the terrible shock, after, I would say, the mourning,” El Glaoui said, “I think this will galvanize a new spirit. Because really, those areas in the mountains are lagging behind, so I hope this is an opportunity for those regions to move forward.”



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