Thursday, 28 April 2011

Marrakesh: Major Incident at Cafe Argana in the Jemaa el Fna Marrakech

13.00 Thursday 28-04-2011 MARRAKECH

A blast has hurt and killed several people in a cafe in the southern Moroccan city of Marrakesh today; Thursday 28th April 2011.

BBC World News reports that, at least 14 people have been killed in the blast, 3 Moroccans and 11 Foreign Nationals,which initially appeared to have been caused by gas canisters catching fire inside the cafe, in the main Jamaa el Fna square. It is rapidly being described as a likely criminal act. Possibly a remotely detonated Bomb Attack.

Rescue officials were pulling casualties from the cafe, according to the Reuters photographer who was present at the scene.

We have sent Abdelhamid from Riad Laksiba to ensure that our Guests were not in the vacinity and to see if we can offer any help. Abdelhamid has reported that the rumours of criminal activity are circulating around the Jemaa el Fna including the notion of a possible suicide bomber.
The British Foreign Office have reccommended that tourists avoid the Main Square at this time whilst Emergency Services and Investigators inspect the situation.

For those concerned the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) Hotline Number is 020 700 85 355 OR 020 700 81 500

Our condolence goes out to all those affected by this incident.

UPDATE: 30 April 2011

Briton killed in Marrakech bomb attack
Peter Moss, a British travel writer, was among 16 victims of a remote-controlled nail bomb explosion at a busy tourist cafe.

A British travel writer and novelist has been named among the 16 victims of a terrorist bomb explosion at a busy tourist cafe in Marrakech.

Peter Moss, 59, was at the Argana cafe in the popular Jamaa el-Fnaa square when a remote-controlled nail bomb was detonated at lunchtime.

A video released before the attack by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb reportedly claimed responsibility, with terrorism experts saying the group was one of several likely candidates.

Moss, a father-of-two, was a writer, broadcaster and comedian, who had earned praise for several screenplays and novels including The Singing Tree and The Age of Elephants.

At the British Press Awards in 2004, while working for the Jewish Chronicle, he was celebrated as "one of the country's finest travel writers, with an unmatched eye for detail".

Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said: "While we do not yet know the exact cause of the blast, reports from the Moroccan authorities are that this may have been a result of terrorism. An act of this kind, causing the death of 16 innocent people, is cruel and wrong, and I condemn it in the strongest terms."

As investigations continued into the blast, the country's deadliest for eight years, Moroccan authorities said the bomb had been packed with nails and set off remotely and not by a suicide bomber.

Jamaa el-Fnaa square, next to the city's historic market area, draws crowds of tourists with its snake charmers, fire-eaters and tooth pullers.

Most of the dead were foreign nationals – including French, Dutch and Canadian tourists – and at least 23 others were injured by the explosion.

British ambassador Tim Morris has travelled to Marrakech to bolster the UK team dealing with the aftermath and Interpol has described the attack as "senseless and deplorable".

While police from both Morocco and Spain could be seen working in the wreckage, friends and family of the victims gathered at the city's Ibn Tofail hospital.

Mouhou Rachid, a cafe worker, said at least one of his co-workers had died and another was in hospital with serious injuries.

"The explosion was terrible. When I recovered consciousness I saw people picking up victims. My friend has injuries in the stomach, face and head."

Israel's foreign ministry said two of the victims, a man and a woman, were Jews living in Shanghai and that the woman apparently had Israeli citizenship.

The attack is the deadliest in Morocco since 12 suicide bombers killed 33 people in co-ordinated strikes in Casablanca in 2003.

The latest attack was a blow to Morocco's most important tourist city. Tourism is Morocco's biggest source of foreign currency and the second biggest employer after agriculture.

"We are going to work very hard so that this does not have an impact on tourism in Marrakesh," said Salaheddine Mezouar, the finance minister."To go to a country as a tourist and return dead is a terrible thing."

Fernando Reinares, a terrorism expert at Spain's Royal Elcano Institute, told RNE radio there were few doubts that jihadists were behind the attack.

"Morocco and its monarchy are a target for al-Qaida and for the north African groups that have been associated with al-Qaida."

The attack adds to the challenges facing Morocco's ruler, King Mohammed VI, as he tries to prevent the uprisings in the Arab world from reaching his normally stable kingdom.

He recently pardoned a raft of political prisoners, including some alleged militant Islamists.

The monarch has promised to reform the constitution to placate pro-democracy protesters. But more protests are planned for Sunday.

HM the King visits the scene of Marrakech attack: UPDATED 04-05-2011

Marrakech - HM King Mohammed VI, accompanied by Prince Moulay Ismail, visited, on Saturday afternoon, the scene of the attack that took place in Argana café at Jamaa El Fna square in Marrakech, killing 16 people and injuring 25 others.
- The Sovereign's visit shows his solidarity with the families of the victims in these painful circumstances.

HM the King had vigorously denounced this criminal attack that caused the death of several innocent victims, and strongly condemned this act, which targeted the city of Marrakech, a symbol of coexistence between religions and civilizations.

HM the King had said that "such a cowardly criminal aggression, contrary to the noble human values of respect for the sacred right to life, tolerance, freedom and peace, will not affect the determination of Morocco, King and people, to maintain the stability of this country, a peaceful crossroads of all peoples and cultures."

“This will only strengthen the willingness of Moroccans against all those who want to undermine the model they opted for to promote democratic progress and cooperate with the international community to fight all forms of crime, aggression and terrorism,” the Sovereign had stressed.

Source: Agence Maghreb Arabe Presse

Marrakesh - La Place d' Jemaa el - Fna Marrakech UPDATED: 08-05-2100

As a regular traveller to Morocco I am still amazed by the enormous diversity that Marrakech offers when one considers that it is less than three and a half hours away by plane.

Photo: The Jemaa el Fna from the Roof Terrace of Cafe de France

The main square of D' jemaa-el-Fna (pictured above) surrounded by its endless labyrinth of souks (bazaars) is well documented and conjures up visions of snake charmers, acrobats, sooth-sayers, musicians, food stalls and the like.

Fascinating, it certainly is and especially when the sun is starting to set and the rich abundance of gastronomic flavours fill the air, trapped in plumes of smoke and steam to give the Djemaa-el-Fna its twilight eeriness, a mesmerising quality I have found nowhere else. As the evening darkens, the hustle bustle of activity rages on. The exotic music appears louder and more hypnotic.

The Shaman display their apocotheries and cures, both living and dead, which always begs the question “how does one apply such a thing”? A fine example is the Black Scorpion trapped inside a jam-jar. “It’s for haemorrhoids” I am informed. “well… um.. if I had Piles…. How would I apply it”? Seemed a suitable response. “I suggest you kill it first” Came the logical answer!

Directly south of the Jemaa-el-Fna is Rue Bab Agnaou. A five minute walk takes you straight to the famous Bab Aganou entrance to the Kasbah district of the Medina.

For my family…. We do enjoy the D'Jemma el-Fna and it’s cacophony of exotic wonders but would not want to be immersed in it 24/7 during our stay. The Kasbah is “not too far…. from the madding crowd” but a short peripheral distance away to enjoy... then retreat.. to some semblance of tranquillity.

The Mystique of Marrakech does not stop at the D'Jemma el-Fna.

Cafe Argana Blast - CLOSURE Inspired by WEEKECH notes on Facebook
Many people had booked or were planning to book a stay in Marrakesh.

Suddenly, due to the criminal blast, some are hesitating to come and others have already cancelled.

Who is coming to Marrakesh ?
Entire families who want to take advantage of special packages?
Individuals who found a low cost flight ticket?
Others looking for a sence of Adventure?

The purposes vary, but lot's of them just come to have fun, some decently, others... less.....

Today, whilst in the process of making a decision, it is important not to panic and succumb to media hype.

We should not forget that London, Paris, New York and many other cities are still possible targets of extremist.

Consider: How often in European, Caribbean and Asian, resorts & cities, one reads of road accidents; or a jogger or a subway passenger being mugged, people attacked, children abducted, tourists raped, murdered.

The point being made is that regular destinations, in the west, do not necessarily make them safer, to tourism in Marrakesh.

Today, Marrakesh safety is not less than before; it is also not a "war-like" situation. On the contrary, security deployment is tighter. Activities go on, it is Business as Usual.

In modern times we know there is no country, in the world, where security, put in place, offers 100% safety to it's inhabitants.

An Orange Juice in Marrakech Click here
7th & 8th May 2011.... Thousands descend on the Jemma el-Fna in support of the Argana Cafe Victims.

Will a potential visitor treat Marrakesh; simply "as a product" and drop it ?
Or will he come because it suits his budget, his wander lust, his list of cities to see in his lifetime, his return from his past experience, the fulfilment of his desire to always visit Marrakech but be more vigilant?

As vigilant as he should be in any other City or Resort nowadays....