The Mayor of Fez, Hamid Chabat, has managed to push through a project to build an artificial beach in Fez
Despite fierce opposition from other members of Fez city council, especially from the Justice and Development Party (PJD), Mr Chabat, who is the Secretary General of the Istiqlal party, gained the majority of votes needed for development approval.
The artificial beach, which will be built on a plot located in Oued Fez, near the royal palace, will cost the city MAD 100 million ($12 million), reports Morocco World News.
Access to the artificial beach is intended to be free of charge and a women-only area will be also created.
The artificial beach project has been mooted since 2008, when Le Economiste ran a report about it, saying it would be fed from the source Ain Sened, and would occupy an area of 70 ha which would include a golf course and a wetland area.
Morocco World News questioned why such a large amount of money was being allocated to an artificial beach, "that is likely to have a negative environmental impact in terms of water usage, instead of striving to renovate and restore the historic and crumbling buildings in Fez that have a significant and a special place in the history of the Kingdom and in popular memory."
However, local business owner Hicham Tazi believes that both projects deserve attention. "Not one at the expense of the other," he says. "Fez is in desperate need of some cheering up. The artificial beach would be a welcome source of leisure activity and a way to keep cool in the hot summer weather. In addition more parks and gardens should be planned to balance the concrete build out in the growing urban city. The medina restoration cannot suffer as a result."
Mr Tazi, who studied International Political Economy in California, and development in Washington, DC, says, "The urban development committee, UNESCO World Heritage, other offices whose mission is to preserve historic sites, not least government agencies of economic development and tourism, should all find ways to work together to develop partnerships with private domestic and foreign investment to stimulate and generate the funds.
"We could be a lot more creative in coming up with new projects for land use and development; we just have to know how to leverage the assets of the unique historic significance of Fez and its growing needs for modern life. There are competent consultancy firms around the world that help with that. Government agencies should employ their expertise to benchmark, conduct feasibility studies and structure such development projects, as well as eventually develop media outreach campaigns to promote their vision and buy-in expertise to minimise adverse results. There are also funds to tap into through UN, World Bank, UNESCO and such international agencies. Initiative has to come from the top. Many of us have faith that we can do better!"