Back in September The View from Fez reported on Casablanca's Morocco Mall development. At the time it was expected to open on October 20th, but the last minute finishing touches moved the date back and it was not until December 1st that the ribbon was cut.
Spread over twenty hectares, the Morocco Mall in Casablanca is the largest shopping centre in Africa and the Middle East. The Aksal Group which is 100% Moroccan owned, has invested over 2 billion dirhams in the complex which will open October 20, 2011. Designed as an extension of the main Casablanca waterfront promenade, the shell-shaped shopping centre also houses the first Galeriés Lafayette store in Africa, set like a gem in the shopping centre. The exterior is adorned with a number of skylights, open gardens, trees and water areas. In addition to the hundreds of stores and restaurants, there is an enormous aquarium and an ice skating rink.
The development was not without critics and sceptics. Built right on the Atlantic coast, it was felt by some that the location would be damaged by Atlantic waves. Architect David Padoa, who designed the project, remained confident and says that all the challenges were met successfully.
Others were concerned that, while the building and running of the enterprise would provide numerous employment opportunities, it would have a negative affect on the surrounding retail environment. In other countries, the opening of major shopping malls - designed so that the customer spends as long as possible in the complex - has led to the closure of nearby small businesses, which cannot compete with the advertising power of the major brands.
Early signs are positive, with many people living in nearby shanty towns being employed in cleaning and maintenance jobs while others have gained positions working in retail outlets. The site manager, Salwa Idrissi Akhannouch, says that 100,000 people were involved in the construction and that, to date, the shopping centre created 5,000 direct jobs and 21,000 indirect jobs.
"It is something the nation can be really proud of," Akhannouch said. The outgoing Trade Minister, Ahmend Reda Chani, is also upbeat, "The mega-complex could turn Casablanca into a major shopping destination like Dubai," he said.
Mall developers anticipate 14 million visitors per year, generating a turnover of five billion dirhams.