Marrakech, world wealthiest’ banquet hall, receives main makers of poverty and injustices in the world.


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We cannot allow our yesterday and today’s enemies monopolise thought, imagination and creativity.” – Thomas Sankara

I hope the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank will disappear soon” – Hugo Chavez

My last visit, in the spring of this year, 2023, to the city of Marrakesh was filled with feelings of sadness about the violent transformations that the city has undergone due to the brutal “tourism” that has been deforming it. My attention was drawn to the huge number of hotels, “riads”, guesthouses, restaurants, and beauty and SPA centres that spread widely in the old city of Medina”.

During my high school studies, I spent two and a half years in Marrakesh, and the city was charming, popular, and safe. I loved walking around at night to see families on France Avenue, now Mohammed VI Avenue, going out to dinner in the garden and singing with their boys and girls until late at night in a beautiful atmosphere. This was outstanding for me as a teenager coming from the large city of Casablanca: the monster, “Casanegra”.
The city that I loved in my teenage years is no longer what it used to be; its features have been distorted by a lot of powders and cosmetics that cannot hide its misery, and its culture and identity have been lost as everything in it has become adapted to the orientalist requirements of tourists, especially Westerners.
Through this article, I try to understand the profound transformations that the city of Marrakesh has undergone in the past years in light of the policies of openness “Infitah,” the invasion of the city by Westerners, and the tyranny of extractive tourism, and how the rulers turned this beautiful city with its culture and history into a party hall, being decorated to receive international summits and meetings, while the role of the locals was confined to furnishing the place and entertaining the guests.
In the second part, I touch on the provocative decision taken by the rulers to host the meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund this fall of 2023, the two institutions that bear a historical responsibility for the deterioration of the living conditions of millions of people in the South across the world.
In the last part, I will try to evoke some of the resistances led by the oppressed people in this city to defend their interests and identity in the face of the invasion and the policies of impoverishment and marginalisation to which they were subjected over the last decades, which, unfortunately, did not cut with the legacies of the French colonisers.

Marrakesh’s contradictions under the marriage of interests between neo-liberalism and authoritarianism

Any visitor to Marrakesh remains amazed at the size of the social and spatial contradictions that characterise the city.

Marrakesh is the city of five-star hotels, with its large pools, amusement parks, and vast golf courses, let alone palaces, villas, and affiliated “riads”. International personalities (Yves Saint Laurent, YSL, and Hermes) are attracted not only by the dry and healthy climate of the city but also by the availability of cheap and subject labour.

This contrasts with Marrakesh in terms of the poverty, marginalisation, and misery that pervade the city’s surroundings and its working-class neighbourhoods, as well as the proliferation of beggars and homeless people who sleep on the ground in some of its alleys.

The red city violently concentrates these contradictions as a contested field, as Professor Khaled Madhi demonstrated in a systematic and precise way through his doctoral dissertation from the University of Illinois at Chicago, entitled “Urban Restructuring, Power, and Capitalism in the Tourist City: Contested Terrains of Marrakesh.”

Khaled gives an analysis of the commodification of social life in Marrakech and thus refutes the official propaganda saying that “the city is a successful model of sustainable development”.

With more than 34% of the national litter capacity, with 1,403 establishments and 70,017 beds. The region of Marrakesh-Tensift-Al Haouz remains the first tourist centre in Morocco. In addition. The province of Marrakesh-Tensift-Al Haouz experienced a 71% increase in foreign residents between 1994 and 2004. Escher and Petermann (2013) recorded an increase in European and particularly French investments in the medina and counted 298 foreign owners in 2003 and 382 in 2008, with the French in the lead. [1]

The liberal tourism expansion and the all-round evolution of the real estate market in Marrakech, especially the luxury market (riads, villas, guest houses, etc.), led to real estate prices skyrocketing, making it difficult for the indigenous poor to maintain their homes. It has also become impossible for their children to own or rent a house within the city center. In addition, tourism has driven up the prices of basic goods, making life more difficult for the city’s poorer residents. [2]

In addition, and due to the expansion of touristic activities, industries, mainly agribusiness, in the Marrakesh region suffered from strong competition for lands and resources [3].

Statistics, even official ones, confirm this situation. Among all major cities in the country, Marrakesh remains the city whose population has the lowest standard of living and annual income per capita. In 2019, Marrakech-Safi Region ranked in the 11th position with 2080 US dollars compared to 3240 US as a national average [4]. The rural areas around Marrakech are also among the poorest in Morocco [5]. Therefore, Marrakesh is a poor city in a poor region.

Neoliberal economic policies imposed by the rulers through the privatisation of public sectors such as education and health increased the suffering of the most vulnerable population. In addition, employment opportunities created by tourism are not just few but also seasonal and precarious, with mostly meagre wages.

The implementation of these neoliberal economic policies, which have never been the subject of any democratic process in Morocco, would not have been possible without relying on an authoritarian and clientelist political system [6]. The tyranny and monopoly over decision-making in public affairs by the ruling minority created a kind of tax, social, and environmental haven for investors, where impunity is the rule in all violations of social, environmental, cultural, and moral rights. The repressive escalation has reached its climax in recent years with the increase in sentences against many activists, journalists, and bloggers, which reached 20 years in the case of Zefzafi and his comrades of the RIF HIRAK (movement) [7], six years, and then five years for each of the journalists, Omar Radi and Suleiman Arraissouni, for example. Moreover, these sentences are only the exposed part of the repressive iceberg that affects all citizens, men and women, daily within the framework of the counter-revolution launched by the rulers in our region against their own people since the end of the so-called Arab Spring.

Understanding the reality of the city through its colonial and neo-colonial history
In addition to the physical plundering of natural resources such as land, minerals, water, and forests and exploiting a very cheap labour force that was forcibly stripped from its lands, the French colonisers seized the Moroccan cultural heritage and turned it into a commodity after distorting it. And adapted it to his orientalist taste.
The colonialists imposed tourism as one of the main economic fields of colonial and semi-colonial countries, with the aim of perpetuating their dependency. The role of the residents of some tourist cities, like Marrakech, was reduced to “providing the atmosphere, rituals, food, and entertainment for the European tourists for the sake of rest and recreation. This was well expressed by Franz Fanon in his book The Wretched of the Earth.

The national bourgeoisie will be greatly helped on its way towards decadence by the Western bourgeoisies, who come to it as tourists avid for the exotic, for big-game hunting and for casinos. The national bourgeoisie organizes centers of rest and relaxation and pleasure resorts to meet the wishes of the Western bourgeoisie. Such activity is given the name of tourism, and for the occasion will be built up as a national industry. If proof is needed of the eventual transformation of certain elements of the ex-native bourgeoisie into the organizers of parties for their Western opposite numbers, it is worthwhile having a look at what has happened in Latin America. The casinos of Havana and of Mexico, the beaches of Rio, the little Brazilian and Mexican girls, the half-breed thirteen-year-olds, the ports of Acapulco and Copacabana — all these are the stigma of this depravation of the national middle class. Because it is bereft of ideas, because it lives to itself and cuts itself off from the people, undermined by its hereditary incapacity to think in terms of all the problems of the nation as seen from the point of view of the whole of that nation, the national middle class will have nothing better to do than to take on the role of manager for Western enterprise, and it will in practice set up its country as the brothel of Europe  [8].

Exactly as Fanon predicted, the rulers in Morocco, who were raised and nurtured in the bosom of the coloniser and imbued with its culture and foolishness, continued the process of cultural oppression and extractive tourism policies.

The colonial regime initiated a process of museumification that led to the constitution of a national identity and a collective memory according to its own conception and perception of the identity of the country, without really taking into account the involvement of Moroccans. These unilateral initiatives of colonialism contributed to the creation of a gap between the collective memory of Morocco, Moroccans, and their cultural image manufactured by the West and for Western tourists who will arrive later. [9]

This trend has witnessed a significant acceleration since the 1990s, with Morocco’s adoption of the liberal economic model and the implementation of a structural adjustment plan, including the privatisation of many hotels. At the beginning of the millennium, the rulers also adopted the Azure tourism plan by creating seven major tourist areas with huge investments (1.5 billion US dollars) [10].

Professor Khaled says: “The western orientation of the city has deepened in the phase of neoliberal globalisation, where it becomes impossible to envisage a future for the city outside the tourist model. We can then speak of the city of Marrakech as intrinsically touristic (essentially touristique). For example, if we look at documents of the State Planning Department (SDAU), we find this ideological discourse permeating the official conception of the future of the city.”.

And he adds, “The neoliberal system perpetuates conditions of marginalisation and social fragility that make work in the sexual field the last refuge for many economically and socially marginalised women and men. Thus, we can talk about the ’commodification’ of the female body, especially as one of the effects of neoliberalism.” Also, “the state controls the displacement processes from the economically promising neighbourhoods (the old medina city, for example), opening the way for non-governmental organisations to create and commodify the”tangible and immaterial heritage“, while at the same time, the private sector leads the processes of urban expansion and control over local communities’ lands surrounding the city to shelter marginalised groups. All this is done under a legal cover inherited from the colonial period”.

Marrakesh : party hall for the world’s richest
In 2019, governors of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund agreed to Morocco’s proposal to host its annual meetings in 2021, but the Covid-19 pandemic’s lock downs made the organisers postpone this event twice, and it will be held in October of this year, 2023.
The annual meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund are usually held mainly in Washington and, every three years, in a member country other than the United States, to highlight the international nature of the two institutions, according to the words of their official websites.
These meetings bring together public and private sector leaders, central bankers, ministers, parliamentarians, representatives of civil society organisations, and experts to discuss the most pressing issues facing the global economy, including global financial stability, poverty eradication, economic growth, job creation, and climate change.
While this is the first time that a meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund is organised in Morocco, it is not the first time that international meetings and gatherings are organised in the country, and more specifically in Marrakesh, which has known many international meetings, including but not limited to:

  • 1994 : The establishment of the World Trade Organisation
  • 1997 : First World Water Forum
  • 2001 : Climate Summit COP 7
  • 2014 : 5th Global Entrepreneurship Summit, with the participation of current US president Joe Biden
  • 2014: The 2nd session of the Global Forum for Human Rights
  • 2016 : Climate summit COP 22
  • 2018: The 30thInternational Conference of National Human Rights Institutions
  • 2018: The 11th summit of the Global Forum on Migration and Development
  • 2022 : African American Business Summit

The next October annual meeting of the WB and IMF will be the second one on the African continent in fifty years. The meeting will be held in Bab Igli, which extends over a vast area of more than 300 hectares outside the city walls towards the Ourika Valley and is the same place where most of the previous global meetings were organised.
The local rulers, as usual, will decorate the city, mobilise its resources, mobilise its energies, and mask its poor people and contradictions as much as possible in order to welcome their masters from the global elite, who are leading humanity at a steady pace towards disaster.
At a time when the ruling classes vaunt hosting these meetings, I consider them a provocation to our feelings and humiliation in front of the rest of the peoples of the Global South. A new capitulation is to be added to the series of capitulations made by the rulers, starting from collaboration with French colonisers at the beginning of the 19th century all the way to normalisation with the Zionist state of Israel, which appropriates the lands of Palestine and kills its people.
These two institutions have never been at the service of the countries or peoples of the Global South, and since their inauguration they have worked to sustain the hegemony of the ruling classes in both Europe and North America and support corrupted, undemocratic elites in the South.

These two institutions also bear a great responsibility for the deterioration of the daily living conditions of millions of people in the world, especially in the Global South, including the impoverished sons and daughters of our people.
The Minister of Economy and Finance considered, in a video dedicated to advertising this event on the official website, that “choosing Morocco is a strong sign of recognition of the Moroccan experience in organising international events.”

For me, I consider Moroccan officials repeating such phrases and limiting the role of Morocco in such meetings to welcoming the participants, feeding them, and entertaining them [11] as repugnant and disgusting. It perpetuates the colonial and derogatory view of our own people, who are, of course, able to contribute from their perspective to the major issues that threaten humanity today.

The Bretton Woods Institutions: antidemocratic institutions serving transnational corporations and neo-colonial powers

When creating these two institutions, known as the Bretton Woods Institutions, in 1944, the organisers, elated by their victory in World War II, worked to exclude a large part of the peoples of the world, especially those from the Global South. Here is what Jean Maynard Keynes wrote about participation in the Bretton Woods Conference in his letter, with much scorn: “Those from the colonies and semi-colonies clearly have nothing to contribute and will merely encumber the ground [12].” This marginalisation and humiliation, which has never ceased, encouraged many newly independent countries led by popular and relatively progressive governments to unite in order to defend a different developmental and economic model and alternative global relations, known as the Third World Project and/or the Non-Aligned Movement.

I bet that the current ruling elite is ignorant of this history, and it is difficult for their colonised minds to think outside the framework of Western modernity, which was drawn for them by their masters in Europe and North America. Rather, they are trying to bury any legacy of resistance against old and new colonisers so that the younger generations will not be guided by it, while they are falsifying history to create false glory for themselves.

The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization are tools used by the governments and companies of the North to conquer the South (Peet 2009). They are far from being democratic institutions. Voting rights, for instance, on the executive boards are weighted according to equity, with rich countries that pay the most having more voting rights. In the IBRD, executive directors from Germany, France, and Britain together hold more than twice as many votes (11.96%) as the representatives of nearly 50 African countries combined.

Debt as a major tool for controlling and perpetuating dependency

The Bretton Woods institutions have long used debt as a key tool to interfere in our economies and impose their disastrous neoliberal recipes.

The indebtedness trap was not only the direct tool for the colonisation of Morocco at the beginning of the 20th century, but it also allowed speculative financial capital, such as the Bank of Paris and the Netherlands (Paribas) [13], to occupy a fundamental place in the colonial economy through the creation and full control of the (central) Bank of Morocco. This dominance extended even after formal independence: it is not possible to separate the control of the Royal Holding [formerly] (known as ONA Omnium Nord-Africanain in the past and called [Al Mada Group today]) from the system established by the Bank of Paris and the Netherlands (Paribas) since 1906 [14].

In the early sixties of the last century, countries of the Global South newly liberated from direct colonialism were targeted by the World Bank under the pretext of helping them to develop.

Unfortunately, the idea of taking the Western countries development paradigm as a reference and the necessity for a catch-up was very prevalent and internalised by a large part of the new elite in the Global South, including the most progressive ones, not to mention the traitors (and the new national bourgeoisie) who pursued collaboration and collusion with the coloniser to get their part of the cake of the robbery process, a process of accumulation by dispossession through plundering and expropriation of the indigenous people. Frantz Fanon says: “Here are the same smart alecks, the sly, shrewd intellectuals whose behaviour and ways of thinking, picked up from their rubbing shoulders with the colonialist bourgeoisie, have remained intact. Spoiled children of yesterday’s colonialism and today’s governing powers, they oversee the looting of the few national resources. […] They insist on the nationalisation of business transactions, i.e., reserving contracts and business deals for nationals. Their doctrine is to proclaim the absolute need for nationalising the robbery of the nation”. In our local context, this amounts to the “Moroccanization” of the robbery of Moroccan resources. [15]

These extractive economic policies, based mainly on the export of raw materials from the periphery to the centre, not only caused the destruction of many ecosystems but also led these countries towards a deep crisis at the end of the seventies and the beginning of the eighties, also called the debt crisis, which paved the way for the almost criminal intervention of the International Monetary Fund in our various countries, imposing structural adjustment programmes in exchange for loan restructuring or/and new loans to pay back the older loans that rarely served the people who still bear their economic, social, and ecological costs.

In the Moroccan case, the state defaulted in the early 1980s and requested a rescheduling. This happened due to a massive decline in state incomes resulting from:

  • the collapse of phosphate prices at the end of the seventies of the last century
  • the cost of the desert war, a prolonged and extended drought
  • high energy costs
  • decrease in the remittances of Moroccan migrants

The IMF and the World Bank stipulated a structural adjustment programme in 83 [16]. Today, Morocco owes up to 94% [17] of its GDP, while the debt service absorbs more than two-thirds of the state budget and represents more than nine times the health budget. Last month, the International Monetary Fund provided a new line of protection and credit to the Moroccan government with conditions to accelerate austerity policies, reduce jobs in public administration, generalise flexibility, deepen liberalisation, and privatise public services.

It is interesting to note that more than two-thirds of Morocco’s debts are internal, and therefore, as in most countries, the local ruling classes are in solidarity with international creditors because they themselves receive part of their income from debt repayments.

In fact, at the end of February 2023, the overall debt would have reached 974 billion dirhams. The interior component is estimated at 763 billion dirhams, compared to 211 billion dirhams for the exterior component [18].

Marrakesh of the oppressed and of resistance

The city of Marrakesh was and is a city of resistance and sacrifices against the tyranny and “Hogra” contempt of the rulers. From the people’s riot in 1953 against the colonialists [19] to the uprising of February 20, 2011 [20] for freedom, dignity, and social justice, passing through the bread revolt in 1984 against austerity measures and SAP (structural adjustment programs), In addition to the commando operations of the Haman Al-Fatwaki network, which succeeded in sowing terror among the supporters of Al-bacha GLAOUI [21] and the representatives of French colonisers,

Until now, harsh living conditions and oppression did not succeed in discouraging the poor of this city from protesting and resisting. The sense of humour and sarcasm that characterise the inhabitants of this city can be considered a form of resilience to all forms of oppression to which they are exposed. Despite the very difficult situation and the social, economic, environmental, and cultural injustice that the majority of Marrakeshis [22] suffers from today, local youth are able to continue the process of radical change that began in 2011, a radical change that today has become a matter of life and death, to stop the disastrous convergence between political despotism, economic neo-colonialism, and the climate change crisis. [23]

I hope that the counter-summit that will be organised by local and international grassroots social movements in Marrakesh from the 12th to the 15th of next October will be an opportunity in which the youth of Marrakesh and its women will meet with activists from different countries to share the experiences of resistance and solidarity that peoples are pursuing to put an end to the widespread destruction and to save people and non-human nature from the apocalyptic disaster to which capitalists are leading us.


[1MIGRANTS AU MAROC Cosmopolitisme, présence d’étrangers et transformations sociales
Nadia Khrouz and Nazarena Lanza (ed.)

[2Urban Restructuring, Power and Capitalism in the Tourist City, Contested Terrains of Marrakesh, Khalid Madhi – 2019

[3Tourisme à Marrakech; Impacts économiques, socioculturels et environnement aux éminents – Hicham Saddou

[4Schéma régional d’aménagement du territoire de Marrakech – Safi :

[5Inhabitants of Marrakech: The Demographic Geography of the Red City, Mohamed Elsebti SEBTI, Mohamed; Genres of Marrakech: Geo-demographie of the ville Rouge 2009 (generated April 03, 2023). Available on the Internet:

[6For more on the complex relationship between political tyranny and economic liberalism, and how both benefit from and nurture the other, you can refer to my article entitled: Despotism, neoliberalism and climate change: Morocco’s catastrophic convergence

[7On Friday, 28 October 2016, a tragic fatal incident happened in Al Hoceima city in northeastern Morocco when a state official seized wares from Mohsin Fikri, a fish vendor, and had it thrown into a garbage truck. When the vendor desperately climbed into the truck to reclaim his fish, “a local police officer ordered the garbage truck driver to start the compactor and ’grind him,” according to activists and witnesses. The truck horrifically ground up Fikri, killing him.

This tragedy and the protests that followed were reminiscent of the wave of demonstrations that Morocco witnessed with the onset of the 20th February Movement in 2011 during the so-called Arab Spring. They provided an impetus for Moroccans to continue their fight for dignity, freedom and social justice and have shown that the process of real transformation in Morocco – and more broadly across North Africa and West Asia – is not finished yet.

[8“The Wretched of the Earth” is the most famous and last book by Frantz Fanon, published a few days before his death in 1961


[10L’économiste news Paper : Tourisme/Plan Azur: 15 milliards de DH perdus en 15 ans! Par Aziza EL AFFAS | Edition N°:5351 Le 17/09/2018 |

[12The poorer nations a possible history of the global south Vijay Prashad 2014

[13This story is confirmed on the official website of the Moroccan Bank BMCI Bank of the BNP PARISBAS group on the history of the bank :

[14Public Debt and Imperialism in Morocco (1856-1956) book by Adam Barbie with an introduction by Thomas Piketty

[16Refer to Najib Aksabi’s article: Structural Adjustment Programs of the International Monetary Fund «Programs « d’ajustement structure » of the FMI» in: Africa Development / Africa et Development, vol. 10, no. 1/2 (1985), p. 101–21.

[17Public indebtedness in Morocco, what about its level today? The Moroccan Center for Circumstances, March 2021

[18«Les dangers d’un enlisement de la dette au Maroc» – Maroc Hebdo News Paper -26-05-2023

[19As soon as the French coloniser announced the inauguration of Ben Arafa as the new king of the country in 1953, the Marrakesh men and women gathered spontaneously in the Mishwar neighborhood to protest and express their rejection of the colonial plans. Al-Mashur’s uprising was met with the repression of the colonial authorities and the arrest of many fedayeen.

[2010 Years after February 20th: We’re not done yet…! M. Jawad / Mupresse website

[21Hajj al-Tuhamy of Glaoui belongs to the Gallaoui family, a “dynasty” of leaders who “ruled” part of southern Morocco, from the beginning of the eighteenth century until 1956. The Gallaoui family built its reputation thanks to the mafia’s control over it. The road connecting Taroudant to Marrakesh. Many famous “leaders” unfortunately come from this family. The Pasha of Marrakesh, Thami Glaoui, was distinguished under colonialism by the unquestioning support he gave to the foreign occupation of his country. He opposed national resistance and went frankly with the colonizers. Jawad this footnote needs some corrections, I think. It reads as if the mafia controlled the Gallaoui family, or they were the mafia? Or they have mafia control over the road connecting Taroudant and Marrakesh?
Glaoui built his wealth from looting during the colonial “pacification” attacks on the rebellious tribes, which became significant. In addition to his reputation as “the great prostitution businessman” The great Brotheler” (Le Grand bordelier), according to the journalist and historian Charles Andre Julien. He used to get 25% of the income from the brothels in Bab El Khamis in Marrakech, which had more than a thousand prostitutes.

[22People who are originally from Marrakesh city famous with their specific Arabic accent and strong sense of humour

[23For more details on the complex relationship between political tyranny and economic neoliberalism, and how both benefit to each other, please refer to my article:
Despotism, neoliberalism and climate change: Morocco’s catastrophic convergence


Jawad Moustakbal Attac/Cadtm Morocco.

Jawad Moustakbal is the country coordinator in Morocco for the International Honors Programme: “Climate Change: The Politics of Food, Water, and Energy” at the School of International Training (SIT) in Vermont, USA. He has worked as a project manager for several companies including OCP, the Moroccan State phosphates company. Jawad is also an activist for social and climate justice, he is member of the national secretariat of ATTAC/CADTM Morocco, and a member of the shared secretariat of the international Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debts. He holds a degree in Civil Engineering from EHTP in Casablanca.

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