NOVEMBER 3, 1997
The road to Morocco
Marrakesh has a population of only 600,000 but has long been a popular tourist destination with its beaten red clay buildings and colonial quarters, developed during the French protectorate of the country between 1912-1956. SirÊWinstonÊChurchill was a regular visitor, calling the city "The Paris of the Sahara". Marrakesh has an international airport which feeds the winter sports trade in the nearby Atlas Mountains.
King Hassan II has tried to steer his country to a market economy and has been looking for international investment in recent years, notably with a privatization program. Around 70% of the population of the country is now under 35 but the government has remained largely unchanged for the last 20 years although elections are due this autumn and a new and less conservative government may emerge. This will certainly strengthen calls for more schemes such as a Grand Prix as it is generally accepted in Morocco that there is a need for stronger links - both cultural and economic - with mainland Europe.