Africa Watch: Morocco tourism gains momentum.


The creme de la creme of Hollywood was in Marrakech, Morocco, for the wedding of British movie star Idris Elba in April this year. Mr. Elba tied the knot with his Canadian model girlfriend, former Miss Vancouver Sabrina Dhowre, at the Ksar Char-Bagh hotel, an exquisite Alhambra-style hotel.

Kenyan-Mexican Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o, American actress Jessica Alba, soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and others have all embraced the glamour of the rose-coloured city of Marrakech and its plethora of tourist attractions, including the vibrant Jemaa el-Fnaa square and the picturesque Majorelle Garden.

Morocco draws tourists from the far corners of the world. They may be seen strolling along the Corniche in Casablanca-an oceanfront boardwalk lined with restaurants, nightclubs, theatres and hotels-or dining at one of the small cafes in the quiet city of Azemmour-a short day trip or overnight jaunt from the big city.

Adil El Fakir, director of the Moroccan National Tourist Office (ONMT), says that over 12 million tourists visited Morocco in 2018, of whom 2.4 million headed for Marrakech.

Morocco's tourist attractions include the spectacular beaches of Essaouira, an Atlantic coastal town included on the World Heritage List of UNESCO since 2001, and the country's mountains, particularly the Atlas and the Rif.

'Tourism is a terrific land-use tool, and our territory is rich in its activities, its landscape, its heritage, its culture and its gastronomy,' declares Mohamed Benamour, a former president of the Morocco Tourism Federation.

A cultural crossroad

The country is also a cultural hub, reflecting the diversity of its inhabitants' national origins: sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and the Middle East. This crossroads attracts fashion designers, artists, filmmakers and other cultural tourists. In 2017, for example, a museum on the international luxury fashion house Yves Saint Laurent opened in Morocco.

'Marrakech taught me colour. Before Marrakech, everything was black,' Mr. Saint Laurent once noted.

Over 50 Hollywood motion pictures have been shot in the country, including Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much; Lawrence of Arabia, directed by David Lean; Orson Welles' Othello; Jesus of Nazareth, directed by the late Franco Zeffirelli; and the latest James Bond movie, Spectre.

The country is also becoming a major hub for international conferences due to its proximity to Europe, Middle East, the Americas and the rest of Africa. The country...

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