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Earthquake damages centuries-old sites in Marrakech but spares modern city

<i>Shared with CNN</i><br/>Images show the extent of the damage left by the earthquake on the 12th century Tinmal Mosque
Shared with CNN
Images show the extent of the damage left by the earthquake on the 12th century Tinmal Mosque

By Ivana Kottasová, CNN

Marrakech, Morocco (CNN) — A small mosque at the heart of the Marrakech Medina in the city’s historical quarter was a treasured place of prayer for the hundreds of traders working at the busy market outside.

Now, it’s off limits.

The mosque, located in the corner of the famous Jemaa el-Fna square, had a beautiful tower which, once adorned with white triangle decoration, has almost entirely collapsed in the powerful earthquake that struck the area on Friday night.

The beautiful building is barely recognizable now. The ornate tower is almost entirely gone – just one bare stump of bricks sticking out of the rubble.

Outside the damaged mosque, local resident Zined Hatimi recalled the terror of Friday night.

“People were inside praying and they started running out, nobody was staying inside,” the 53 year old told CNN. Like many others, she was too scared to go home.

Hatimi, 53, slept in a central Marrakech park with her entire family, including little children. She said it got cold at night, so they stayed together.

“Everybody was outside. All of the neighbours, everyone. We don’t want to go inside, everyone is scared, the shaking was so strong,” she said.

The Marrakech Medina, a UNESCO World Heritage site was hit by the 6.8 magnitude earthquake on Friday, the largest to hit the area in at least 120 years.

The Medina district dates back centuries and is enclosed by walls built of red sandstone. Once defending the city from danger, large parts of these walls have been damaged in the quake. Long sections are showing deep cracks and parts have crumbled.

Many of the old buildings inside the Medina have been damaged and some have collapsed entirely. On Sunday morning, large piles of rubble were dotted around the area, with stray cats scouring them for food. Some sections of the city were cordoned off with fencing as the old building could be at risk of collapse.

Outside Marrakech, the impact of the quake is still emerging. Images showed the 12th Century Tinmal Mosque in the High Atlas mountains had been badly damaged.

The mosque is seen as a prime example of Almohad architecture, referring to the period when Almohads ruled over Morocco as well as parts of Algeria and Spain.

Other buildings in Marrakech appear to have escaped nearly unscathed.

The Kutubiyya mosque, Marrakech’s crown jewel, stood intact on Sunday morning, despite videos showing it shaking violently in the quake.

Away from the historical Medina, in many of the modern parts of Marakkech, the impact was barely noticeable. Cafes and restaurants were getting ready to open on Sunday morning, catering to tourists who decided to stay.

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