The Red City Revealed
Marrakech is quickly becoming one of those ultra cool places, where you can see Sandra Bullock or Sting walking through the souks, with "spas, cocktail lounges, fashionable boutiques and the occasional Italian-owned showroom of gorgeous kitsch. Western-style nightclubs rise like reeds from the dust. Once-dilapidated riads - grand traditional houses built around patios - are being reborn as luxurious B & B's with fit-for-a-sultan furnishings." (NY Times)
There's another side to the city, though. A 2004 study conducted by the Moroccan government has assessed the quality of life in Morocco. Tel Quel, my favorite Moroccan mag, has run a story comparing the quality of life in ten cities of Morocco--the first two are Casablanca and Rabat, of course, and Tangier doesn't fair too badly, at No. 6 (this prior to the massive investment that started late last year).
But Marrakech is dead last, even poorer than Fes (Meknes and Oujda are not mentioned). Here's the short paragraph roughly translated:
The Ochre Lantern
Without contest, the nasty surprise of this classification. The ochre city has'nt escaped last place. Moreover, this falls at the time that the city's taken on an international label, as well as become a model for communal management at the local level. Is the Marrakech boom only an illusion? "Perhaps. In any case, this has no great repercussions for the lives of Marrakchis," says a local town planner. Judge for yourself: a 35.6 percent illiteracy rate. Only Khouribga and Skhirat are higher. The poverty rate is alarming. Close to 8 percent of this city of palaces and the global jet-set are poor, with 16 percent close to poverty. If the employment rate is reasonably average, the standard of living for households is rather poor. More than 24 percent of occupied living quarters are more than 50 years old, and 17 percent have neither water nor electricity. That seriously revises the image we get from the Palmerie (luxury hotel) and Gueliz (the affluent suburb).