Concerns over bikini-clad tourists “invading” one of Bahrain’s few public beaches could stymie plans to turn the area into an investment zone. Al Jazair Beach has long been earmarked for development by government-owned real estate company Edamah, but constant delays have led to it falling into a state of disrepair.
In September last year the Southern Municipal Council described the area as a “dumping ground” where “immoral” and “indecent” acts were committed at night. Initially, councillors had campaigned for the title deeds to be returned to the Southern Municipality amid claims that Edamah was not properly maintaining the beach.
However, last year they made a U-turn and got behind the company’s plans for development – provided the seafront remained a public space. Yet this new-found support now seems to be waning, as the council recently rejected a request from the Works, Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry to approve a reclassification of the beach as an investment zone.
Council chairman Ahmed Al Ansari told the GDN that he needed guarantees the area would not become another “Hoora or Juffair”. “The ministry, acting on Edamah’s behalf, wants to reclassify this area so that tourist projects such as hotels, luxury apartments and entertainment facilities will be built,” he said. “But there are no guarantees that the place will be family-oriented and I don’t want a repeat of what’s going on in Hoora or Juffair at Al Jazair – there are genuine concerns of women in bikinis invading the place.
“Another issue we are worried about is that Edamah has not given us assurances that the place will have open coastal areas for families free of charge, which is something that we have requested they take into consideration several times.” Mr Al Ansari said that only intervention from the very top could change his mind on the plans as they stand.
“Unless the new classification is approved by His Majesty King Hamad, there will be consequences for anyone who pushes ahead with these plans,” he said. “I have a dream of an oasis in the desert, but what has been presented is not it. “We need projects that will attract the whole family, places for parents, children and couples to enjoy – not youths seeking a hideout for alcohol and sex.”
Existing attractions in the area provided a good example of the “right” kind of development, Mr Al Ansari said. “The nearby Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain University and Al Areen Wildlife Park and Reserve already have a lot of people coming to them,” he said. “Because of this people will naturally be interested in investing and we have already approved plans for a new boutique mall with a mosque in the area on an exceptional case to prove a point that we are not against development. “There needs to be more on offer than just a petrol station with some shops and restaurants attached.”
Neither the ministry nor Edamah could be reached for comment when contacted by the GDN.
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