UNESCO celebration, December 2015

Marrakech is holding a major cultural event between 18 and 20 December 2015, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of its declaration as a city World Heritage Site . The event is being held in partnership with the Marrakech- Safi region, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs, the Wilaya of the Region Marrakech-Safi, the Prefecture and the Council of Marrakech and Associations coordinating work to preserve the cultural heritage of Marrakech.

This is an opportunity review and evaluate the work done by the various public and private stakeholders for the past three decades. These initiatives were aimed at safeguarding the rehabilitation of the architectural fabric of the old medina and its gardens and historic sites: the Mosques, the Zaouias, medersas, riads and foundouks highlighting the architectural heritage of Marrakech. This includes the oral and intangible heritage of Jamaa El Fna Square and restoration efforts in the old medina to protect its buildings against damage due to human action or to environmental factors will be reviewed.

The city will host this event including workshops, lectures, traditional ceremonies attended by Moroccan and foreign experts in tangible and ntangible heritage.An exhibition of the restoration and rehabilitation work being carried out on the architectural fabric of the old Medina will be organized, offering the public the opportunity to assess the restoration works carried out so far.

Marrakech is the only Moroccan city which has twice been classified as a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1985 and the Jamaa El Fna square in 2001.

Part of the debate may be about the nature of restoration itself as against knocking down buildings and recreating entirely new structures. The Medina is of course a continuing work in progress and is always changing. The narrow streets and derbs face challenges in maintaining drainage systems for a growing population. Part of the Medina was flooded recently during heavy rains. Much is being done including extensive renovations in the mellah quarter.

One question that has been discussed for sometime is the use of motorbikes in crowded areas of the Medina.Perhaps some areas need to be pedestrian areas only.

As regards the Place Jemma El Fna the criteria for Unique World Heritage sites and their preservation are clear. The Place was a venue for storytellers to entertain the people. It has become a vast dinning area with orange juice stalls. The storyteller’s area has been squeezed into a tiny corner of the Place. The administration is taking some action to regulate this.

The need to make money and the preservation of the Place’s unique cultural heritage have to be reconciled.