As the sun came up in Marrakech on Sunday, the true scale of people’s fear became clear. Many were waking up in the city’s parks, squares and large parking lots.
They were too afraid to go inside, fearing another earthquake could cause the already damaged buildings to collapse.
Moustapha Shweirgi slept on the floor next to his market stall at Jemaa el-Fna, Marrakech’s main square. He was napping in a chair on Sunday morning after spending the night lying on a thin blanket next to his friend and fellow market trader.
When the earthquake hit late Friday, he felt like someone was trying to knock him over.
“First, I heard an odd noise, and then suddenly it felt like I was falling through the ground,” he told CNN.
People around him were screaming, panicking. The famous Jemaa el-Fna square is at the heart of the medina, Marrakech’s historical quarter, and gets very busy at night. There are dozens of food stalls and musicians competing for the attention of the many tourists who flock to the place in the evenings.
When the quake hit on Friday night, people were still out and about. Shweirgi said he saw people trying to hang on to the railings and tables on the first floor terrace of a cafe just in front on him.
He said he managed to stay on his feet, but only just. “And then the mosque started to fall down,” he said, pointing to the religious center in the corner of the square.
Outside a damaged mosque, 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 said. 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 neighbors, everyone. We don’t want to go inside, everyone is scared, the shaking was so strong,” she said.