Mixed Feelings about Real Estate Development in Morocco
On a recent trip to Oued Laou, a city on the Mediterranean north of Chefchaouen, I saw the opportunity fueling Morocco’s real estate and tourism development efforts. Sheep grazed in an empty lot next to the town’s hotel, enjoying a water front view along with me and my traveling companion. The hotel staff said business had picked-up since they had been featured in the most recent Lonely Planet guide. They seemed nervous about the increased attention, but we were the hotel’s only visitors.
Waterfront in Oued Laou. View of Hotel
Oued Laou terrace on left.
In Morocco, rumors are flying that investors from places like Kuwait and Qatar are buying up costal land for major tourist developments. The rumors are certainly based in truth. In 2001, King Mohammad VI launched his Vision 2010 plan which aims to improve Morocco’s economy through tourism. Real estate developments are already under way along costal areas on the Atlantic and Mediterranean. The King’s plan mainly targets Europeans, particularly those in the UK, Germany, and Switzerland, who are in the market for a vacation home.
View of Ouidia in from the now-gone Yacht Club in Rabat.
Same view last year during the Mawazine Festival on the Bou Regreg waterfront in Rabat
Attracting tourists means more than building new hotels. It requires additional capacity and attractions. It requires safer roads and more consistent services. In other words, it requires a lot of change and some loss. For example, the new water front by Oudaia in Rabat required removing the old Yacht Club where a friend of mine was married.
The real estate boom in Morocco gives me mixed feelings. Certainly, Morocco has a lot of room to change for the better. Human rights abuses, education, poverty, and a national identity crisis caused by the pull between Muslim faith and Western ideas are just some of the challenges facing Morocco. On the other hand, Moroccan design has developed without regard to maximizing capacity or efficiency. I would hate to lose artistic traditions and places for the sake of economic progress. I hope tourism leads to prosperity for Moroccans. I hope it fuels restoration efforts. But, I, like the staff at Hotel Oued Laou, am nervous about the increased attention.