Engineer and Commercial Director of the Moroccan government chartered company SAPT Hassan Mzerma opened Day Two of the 2011 April Seminar, with the focus on the SAPT project of the conversion of Tangier's city port. We thank SAPT chief Abdelouafi Laftit and Mr. Mzerma, probably two of the busiest people in Morocco, for their valuable time and their beautiful illustrations. The Powerpoint slides, two of which we present here with SAPT permission, provided the audience with their first detailed look at what is coming their way.
One thing coming their way is water. The plan calls for bringing the Strait of Gibraltar's water back to many of the beaches and areas which were paved over in the 20th century. Original idea, though perhaps risky given Tangier's exposure to rising sea levels due to global warming.
The idea is to bring more people to Tangier's revamped port. Cruise ship passengers, yacht people, of course, but also internal tourists from elsewhere in Morocco, eager to re-live Tangier's international flavor. And how about the hundreds of thousands of MREs – Marocains Résidants à l'Etranger or overseas Moroccans – who transit Tangier's ports every summer? Between Tangier's city port and Tangier Med, some 3 million passengers transit every year.
Thankfully, one of the lifebloods of the current port, not to speak of the city – the fishermen and their trawlers – are to find an improved home in the new port, with their own breakwater (topmost in the second photo above). There was an unjustified fear at one point that the fishing port would be eliminated in the interests of gentrification.
Tourism, though a potential money-earner for the city, apparently doesn't bring much return to the port authorities (1 tourist = 1 Euro for the port, but Euros 100 for the city's economy). Job creation, ever important, is a key goal, and the chicken-and-egg nature of port conversion is an essential element in making Tangier more attractive as a port of call. "Build it and they will come." The planners' goal for 2020 is 750,000 cruise ship passengers per year.
But what will they see? Yes, the new port is to boast hotels, museum, shops, esplanades, etc. But is the human infrastructure – dominated by "unofficial" or faux guides – ready for this influx? Several participants underlined the importance of training, and involving the city's youth, avoiding a tendency towards elitism – a tough job in a project destined to attract some of the world's wealthiest people.
The port's existing mosque is to be replaced with a larger one, seen by some as an opportunity to build a landmark, with world class Moroccan artisans, and perhaps open it to all.
Environmental impact, as in yesterday's Day One session, is a recurring concern for the city port. Some fear that the infamous chergui wind might send water effluent back to land or destabilize the planned cable car in the port plan.
Today's session, though it has no official standing, served as a sounding board for Tangier's civil society, and is seen by a number of participants as a way of influencing plans that are not necessarily finalized. A kind of self-appointed focus group.
We all learned much, and to the great credit of SAPT, they took note of all of the constructiive points for future reference.
Finally, TALIMblog received a plug by audience members, who were encouraged to continue the discussion through the "comment" feature at the bottom of this and other posts. Update: read Mohamed Lamrani's excellent observations, and more great ideas from Bernard Moutin.
With enough ongoing comments, we can have The Never-Ending April Seminar.