On the waterfront

Another Middle East megaproject trundles on, this time the $10-billion Marsa Zayed (‘Zayed Harbour’) development in Jordan’s Red Sea resort city of Aqaba.

For years Aqaba’s beaches played second fiddle to its port – which, during the 1990s, was the gateway for goods trucked to and from sanctions-bound Iraq. Since the creation of the low-tax Aqaba Special Economic Zone in 2001, investment (and, specifically, leisure and tourism investment) has skyrocketed.

I’m rather fond of Aqaba. It smells a bit, but (as I write in my ‘Rough Guide to Jordan’) it’s got a long history – and it feels like it doesn’t have anything to prove, which makes a change from the Gulf.

But ever since the municipality cut down almost all the beachfront palm trees in the 1960s, there’s been a slightly cock-eyed idea of progress in Aqaba. Marsa Zayed involves razing a low-income residential district in the city centre and moving its population to the outskirts. I look at the artist’s impressions of the marina, and my heart sinks.

Jordan only has 26km of Red Sea coastline. Are “high-rise residential towers” directly on the waterfront really the best use of it?

1 Comment

  1. Ian

    Well waht do you expect!! Look at how Aqaba has developed over the past few years.. If your name fits and you have mega $$$ you get exactly what you want.. i.e. a chunk of land on the beach front to build your multi Million hotel project and never mind those who cannot afford to use the facilities afterwards (locals as well as tourists – oh I fogort locals are being shipped out of Aqaba!) or whose “face does not fit”… Ahh.. locals again…
    Try using the Intercon beach at JD 50 per person!!!
    Aqaba had a charmm years ago… a village .. maybe not so idyllic, but an Arab identity at least.. Now? It is striving to join the faceless other touristic concrete jungles…
    Of course there is one “highpoint”.. excuse the pun! come the rising o sea levels with global warming .. well those High Rise tourist complexes will be the first to “go under”.. Just what Aqaba needs, new exciting DIVE SITES!! Why??? Oh yes forgot to mention… part of the result of all this new development, beach front hotels, moving the cargo berth to accommodate the new development… has decimated this once unique coral reef environment. A few more years from now.. there will be no more reef system here to dive. Great pity that.. and hugely short sighted as one marine biologist said Aqaba and a select other few reef systems are unique in that only these coral reefs will survive the warming up of the seas as only they are nourished by cold water upwelling from teh deep (rift in case of the Gulf of Aqaba) brign nutrients.. BUT if Aqaba’s are reefs are detroyed before that by developments.. then…… and one has to ask the bigger question… where was the EIA on these new developments..??

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