Morocco’s King Mohammed VI ceremonially opened the new terminal of Marrakech’s airport in December 2016, reportedly expanding its capacity from 3 million passengers per year to 9 million. The enlarged airport is also visually striking, with a façade shaded by an undulating perforated screen and an interior filled with gleaming shops and inviting restaurants.
Yet the airport’s design is deeply, shamefully flawed. Without proper preparations, arriving at Marrakech Menara can be extraordinarily unpleasant.
When we first flew into Marrakech, it took us 30 or 45 minutes to get through the immigration line, which was inconvenient but not unexpected. It was, however, quite a shock to arrive in that same immigration hall after a domestic flight from Ouarzazate to Marrakech. That shock turned to outrage when we saw the line, which stretched far outside the rope switchbacks and snaked out of view. It must have been two hours long, and we were not having any of it.
Shock turned to outrage when we saw the line. It must have been two hours long, and we were not having any of it.
Those of us in the front of the group from our plane called over a guard, and explained that because we were on a domestic flight, there was no need for us to go through immigration. Unconvinced, he kept insisting that we head to the back of the line, and the increasingly angry 50 passengers on my flight kept insisting that we would do no such thing. One woman who spoke Arabic finally convinced him to let us use the fast-track immigration line, which took only 15 minutes.
When I later returned to the Marrakech airport, I spotted an information desk near our gate. I asked whether it was normal for passengers on domestic flights to have to go through immigration, and the young woman told me that indeed it was, except perhaps for certain flights from Casablanca. When I inquired why on earth that was necessary, she exclaimed, “It’s for our security,” as if I’d asked why there were metal detectors. “We need to be able to keep track of where people are flying,” she continued, apparently believing the flapdoodle she was spouting.