Marchica Project in Morocco: Eco Tourism Project Development in the Region

Marchica Med, Fès-Boulemane, President, Said Zarrou
This development project covers an area of more than 2,000 hectares and aims to develop seven distinct cities.

Interview with Said Zarrou, President of Marchica Med

Said Zarrou, President of MarChica Med

Can you give us a general idea of the real estate sector and construction sector in Morocco?

Both these sectors are riding high. As for the Marchica project, it relates more to the sectors of tourism and agriculture. We have decided from the beginning to build the 7 environment-cities of the project in an eco-friendly manner, in order to create an eco-friendly tourism destination in the Mediterranean.

The Moroccan government has allocated a 150 million euros budget to the cleaning and depolluting of the lagoon, which was a central concern before launching the construction project. We are aiming for 100’000 beds by 2025.

This development project covers an area of more than 2,000 hectares and aims to develop seven distinct cities.

The project complies with HQU norms, which means even the machines we used were eco-friendly: they crush rock into sand so that we don’t need to bring sand from the coast.

How are you progressing with the project?

The Prime Minister praised the achievements of the Agency for the Development of the Marchica lagoon since its creation on the 10th of June 2010. This organisation has the required financial resources to realize ambitious objectives notably cleaning up the lagoon and the conservation of its environment, the development of the city of Atalayoun, the marina and the golf academy, and the construction of a new bridge at the City of Two Seas (Cité des Deux Mers).

Note that the goal of this project is to establish the site of Marchica as a large scale tourist centre promoting the environmental and ecological potential that abounds in the region of Nador. Atalayoun

This development project covers an area of more than 2,000 hectares and aims to develop seven distinct cities.

Indeed, this project is composed of a group of 7 zones each providing a base for residential complexes, hotels, sport, leisure and entertainment infrastructures as well as space for economic and social activities. The realization of the future seaside resort will be carried out in a sequential manner from 2009 to 2025.

The sites « Atalayoun Golf Resort » and the “City of Two Seas” (Cité des Deux Mers), where the studies are at a sufficiently advanced stage will be developed first. City of Two Seas

Development will be carried out on an area of 45.2 ha in compliance with ecological standards and giving priority to renewable energy; wind, solar and recycling of waste water.

The project will therefore be composed of five zones to experience at best all the views and angles of the site. Apart from the residential offer, we will find 2 beach resorts, a golf academy, an 18 hole golf course and shops.

Work has already started and will be finished in 2014.  The same deadline is given for the City of Two Seas (Cité des Deux Mers). Indeed, the project will be built on the lagoon’s sand strip. The construction of two marinas and a luxury hotel has also been planned.

The new city of Nador is MarchicaMed’s third project. Work will begin in 2012 and end in 2020. It is focused on the development and construction of a 76.3ha area in the form of a village-marina.

Then, “The fishermen’s village” «Le village des pêcheurs», a unique kind of accommodation facing the sea is the fourth project. With a global capacity of 6,000 beds, it will be realized between 2014 and 2018 and aims at creating the authentic atmosphere of the fishing world and its nautical activities.

The development of « The Flamingo Bay » «la Baie des flamands» combining a wide range of accommodation, equipment and services for the practice of lakeside tourism, leisure sailing and golf will follow. This project will spread over 77ha. The construction work will be launched in 2015 to be completed in 2020.City of Two Seas

The 6th project will be the “Marchica Sport” site. It will be launched from 2017 and will need 6 years of intense labour. This 14ha space will have sport facilities for amateurs and high level professionals in different disciplines. The last construction site is “The Marchica Orchards”, «Les vergers de Marchica».  The realization of this space which will begin in 2019 is designed around the natural park and lagoon and will allow different types of specific accommodation (mobile home and farmhouse villas)


How is the development going to impact Morocco’s image and the region of Oriental?

The development project on the Marchica lagoon site consolidates Morocco’s strategic vision for the development of the Oriental region, and on a wider basis the north of the country, which possesses a cultural, historical and ecological heritage of incomparable wealth.

This development project sprawls out on an area of 19,170 ha and aims to promote the unique natural potential of the lagoon and its surroundings as a growth leverage of a green economy and sustainable development on a regional scale. Marchica Sport

In addition to the socio-economic development via the promotion of the tourism sector and the creation of over 80,000 jobs, this project is conceived with respect to the environment notably, in terms of the choice of construction materials, energy management and water recycling.

The goal in the development of this exceptional lagoon is to become an international tourist destination within the Mediterranean basin by obtaining a label of quality and innovation.


What is Marchica Med role in development of Morocco?

By the development of its tourist potential, this project will bring about a positive impact and an innovative economic dynamic beneficial to all Moroccans.

The avant-gardist vision underlying this project makes it a real model of reference on the scale of territorial and socio-economical development as well as by the promotion of the cultural and ecological heritage of the northern region.

On the human scale, Marchica Med hopes to make this region a centre of competence and excellence through the economic growth engine that constitutes this project. In addition to the creation of jobs, this project aims to encourage and develop local skills through, among others, a partnership with universities in the region and the implication of stakeholders throughout the development process.


What are your needs in terms of investment?

The government and public-private partnerships have already invested in the project. This shows that the project has potential. Investment isn’t limited to the tourism sector; they can also invest in agriculture, fishing and small industry.

The area Marchica Med is in charge of (200 km2 including 115 km2 of water surface) is a real city, with an industrial zone, and agricultural zone, a packaging zone, etc. There is also the construction sector: we need to build residences, leisure facilities, hotels (15 by 2025). Marchica Lagoon

Do you see a lot of interest from investors in investing into Marchica Med?

Interest from foreign investors is growing whereas paradoxically little publicity and communication has been realized to date. By its visionary aspect in terms of innovation and excellence in its conception, as well as the geographical wealth, this project enjoys real interest from foreign investors among others.

Thus, during the past months, « The Agency for the Development of the Marchica lagoon site » has continuously received at its head office in Nador, delegations from different corners of the world such as a delegation from the World Bank, French, Spanish, and Dutch investors.  We have also received Moroccan expatriates willing to invest. We will be attending international fairs to advertise our project, our region and all of Morocco.

We work with reputable architect firms and city planners of different nationalities. These encounters have led to profitable and auspicious agreements to the opening up of Nador and our beautiful lagoon to the world.

We are beginning to be.

Why should investors choose your region over other regions of the world?

Firstly, because of its location. It is in the Mediterranean, and the average time distance to European airports is 2.5 hours. The Nador region and the backcountry (Oujda, Saidia, al Husayma) offer landscapes of rare beauty. It’s the best place for investment!

I really think people should visit the region to understand its potential. We are also building 3 important parks among others. All these projects will add value to the Marchica site.

Recent events and protests in the Maghreb and in the Arab world in general might worry foreign investors. Of course Morocco is very different, it is much more stable. What would you like to say to investors who are hesitant to invest?

Morocco is a stable country. It is full of potential and investors that have invested in Morocco in the past have succeeded. Morocco is an exception, and I believe the foreign population living in Morocco feels this difference. A lot of Westerners have decided to live here after they retired.

If you are talking about clashes, we can safely say a football match would cause more clashes than what took place in Morocco. It is a democratic country where the people sometimes claim for change, and the government listens to them. Since His Majesty Mohammed VI’s accession to the throne about ten years ago, the whole world has noticed very positive change and reforms in Morocco. Investors are invited to visit our exceptional country and see for themselves.

In countries like Dubai, huge projects have been abandoned because of the crisis. How does the crisis affect projects such as the Marchica?

We don’t have the problems Dubai is facing. We have 30 million inhabitants. I don’t remember interrupting our project for even an hour because of the crisis. This is not some crazy project. It’s realistic, it respects the environment and aims at restoring the lagoon.

It is a well-considered project, planned by national and international experts. We are building the future under the patronage of a young and active king. No crisis can stop us.

What are the major challenges that Marchica is facing today?

The Marchica project is one of the most ambitious projects in the Oriental region, which therefore, needs the deployment of financial, technical and human resources in order to reach the goals that have been set in the best possible conditions and to efficiently meet the expectations of public institutions and the local population.

The Marchica lagoon provides an exceptional environment and hosts an area rich with fauna and flora. Marginalised for a long time, the lagoon had progressively been transformed into a waste dump: solid and liquid waste, urban and industrial, agricultural pollution, used water, lawless quarrying for construction material, degradation of forests, lawless urbanisation, fishing activities etc.

In its mixed approach, the Agency for the Development of the Marchica lagoon site, gives particular interest to the preservation of the ecosystem. Priority is given to the clean up of Marchica, the rehabilitation and reforestation of the quarries and the maintenance of the natural site in its entirety. The Agency has implemented a policy of sustainable development favouring energy efficiency by rational management of its resources and by highly supporting the generalization of high environmental quality.

I wish the project would get ahead faster. I am in charge of various fields: tourism, urban planning, the bird parks, the game reserve… I have a lot of work to do, and so does the team working with me.

We are glad to see the first hotels will soon be open. One is on the gulf, and the other one is an old factory renovated into a palace. We’ve already found major investment; all the investors are Moroccan. This is a message to foreign investors: we believe in our projects and welcome them to go into partnership with us and share the risks, whether it be in the sector of tourism, fishing or agriculture.

What are the key sectors in which investment is most needed?

We need investors mostly in the field of building and civil engineering, and in the field of tourism. We are building our first environment-city, where no cars will be allowed, and it is in the Mediterranean on top of that.

There is a game reserve next to it, and the bird park is a half hour boat ride away. For those who like golf, a golf park will open within 4 months – as well as a Golf Academy that issues certificates. The golf parks will be irrigated by water coming from the waste-water treatment plant.

Surveys are being done in order to decide which type of agriculture should be developed in the 3600 hectares are dedicated to agriculture within the lagoon. We want to add value to the sectors of agriculture and fishing through packaging and food processing. We are even thinking of creating a “Marchica” eco-label as we want to promote organic agriculture in the area. It would supply the region but also be exported. We want to innovate, we want creative ideas. These are our priorities in terms of investment. Our goal is mainly to create jobs in the region.

Once the Marchica project is finished, who will be your customers? Why will tourists choose the Marchica over France or Spain?

Simply because it is eco-friendly tourism: it makes all the difference. In France and Spain there is concrete everywhere. We will  have protected pine trees transplanted (and they are very hard to transplant) by experts in the area. 30’000 have already been planted. Our approach is developmentally sustainable, and this grants the Marchica an invaluable advantage: tourists will choose to come to the Marchica.

Besides, two airports are close-by (Nador and Oujda) and there is a port next to the lagoon that welcomes ferries. The Marchica is served through air, sea and the Oujda highway that we hope will soon reach the Marchica. This will make it a destination for Moroccans as well as foreigners.

Of course we are targeting France, Spain, Portugal, but we are particularly targeting Northern Europe: Germany, Holland, Belgium and  countries of the far north, as they give a lot of importance to environmental issues. All the parks (golf parks, bird parks, etc.) will be irrigated by water coming from the waste-water treatment plant.

In which ways is Marchica Med addressing corporate social responsibility? (De quelles façons Marchica Med assure un rôle de responsabilité social)

The Agency for the Development of the Marchica lagoon site attaches capital importance to the social and cultural development of the town of Nador. Indeed, the program that the agency prescribes within this framework revolves around the integration of the local population in the development of the site and the implementation of a support strategy for social and cultural actions.
Indeed, the Agency plans, among others, to carry out the following actions:

  • Implementation and realisation of a local training scheme in collaboration with the OFPPT and aiming at developing the necessary skills for the development of the Marchica lagoon site.
  • Promotion of local handicraft through support of local artisans for the promotion of their production.
  • Contribution to the upgrade of the fishing sector by supporting existing activities in relation to small scale fishing.
  • Contribution to the development of sustainable agriculture by supporting farmers and providing them with the necessary means for the practice of environmental friendly farming.
  • Encouragement of local hire in the construction, food and hotel industries.
  • Implementation and support of social and cultural events.

How do you imagine Marchica Med when finished and what would be its regional role?

My dream – and I believe it will come true – is for 2 destinations to open within 5 years:

  • the Atalayoun Golf Resort (one of the cities of the Marchica;
  • the island where the environment-city is located, which we can only access by sea.

They will host 7 hotel units and about 1000 touristic residences. I want these destinations to open to international tourism, and I hope to welcome the first planes of eco-friendly tourists sent by tour operators.

This project will put in place a real engine of growth, thus supporting economic, social and cultural development in the region while promoting the existing heritage.

The urban, territorial and tourist infrastructures will bring about a new breathe of life allowing the renewal of the entire region and making Marchica one of the most sought after tourist destinations in Morocco and a pioneer in the Oriental region.

We imagine the site, as a true model of reference in terms of innovation, urban and architectural development as well as in terms of respect for the environment.

Scroll to top