Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Is Fez to Get an Artificial Beach?

Beachfront properties in Fez? It is a notion that most people with a sense of Morocco's geography would call ludicrous. Yet, if Hamid Chabat has his way, it could well become a reality

Say what you like about the mayor of Fez, one thing you have to admit, he has grand visions. Hamid Chabat is not only a mayor, he is also Secretary General of Al Istiqlal Party. This is the man who, back in October 2012, astonished the good folk of Fez by erecting a replica of the Eiffel Tower. However, public reaction to such a reminder of the previous colonial power, saw it demolished shortly after.

Then there was his plan to build a gigantic arch like France’s “Arc de Triomphe” (Arch of Triumph) at the entrance to the city of Fez on the road from Meknes Now it seems he is wanting to spend 100 million dirhams ($10,212,000 US) building an artificial beach in the city of Fez.

The Fez Eiffel Tower  - before being removed in November 2012

As commented at the time, "In Fez, where unemployment and poverty is one of the highest in Morocco, one wonders how a representative of the people can afford to spend public money to build unnecessary symbols that do not reflect in any way the identity of the ancient city."

Despite critics pointing out that education, healthcare and jobs are what the city needs, it appears Hamid Chabat is seriously determined to carry out his dream.

According to sources close to the mayor, the artificial beach will be built at Oued Fez and cover a total area of 22 hectares. The official website of the Fez City Council states that the water required will be brought from the rural commune of Ain Allah, which is administratively under the prefecture of Moulay Yacoub.

Sources revealed that access to the beach will be free and that women will have their own exclusive area.

Mayor Hamid Chabat - a man of big visions

The artificial beach project has been mooted since 2008, when Le Economiste ran a report about it, saying it would be fed from a source at Ain Sened, and would occupy an area of 70 ha which would include a golf course and a wetland area.

Back in 2014 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. But the medina restoration cannot suffer as a result."

The people of Fez appear to be somewhat bemused by the notion of a beach and are in no rush to buy "waterwings" or "floaties" for their children. There also seems to be no surge of investors wanting to purchase beachside frontage. As they say in the tabloids - "don't hold your breath".

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