January 15, 2012
by Stephen Jan in Daklha, Morocco
We’ve been stuck in Dakhla for 17 days now. I wake up every morning to the maddening reality that the ambulance will idle for yet another day. On Wednesday, the UPS website listed the ETA for our package as “Monday, January 16, 2012”. On Thursday, the package reached Morocco. The online ETA quote changed into a “confidence-boosting” “unknown”. Right now, our UPS parcel sits in some mail room in Casablanca, probably waiting for some confused, illiterate Moroccan customs official to rubber stamp it and to pass it down the bureaucracy chain. I’d love to get the package on Monday – but I have so much faith in the Moroccan Post, that I’d place my bet on more delays. I no longer fantasize about normal male things like beautiful women, expensive cars, and making money. No. Today, my “Pie in the Sky” fantasy is getting a package of car parts from Casablanca, fixing our ambulance, and finally crossing into that red listed country: Mauritania.
So what is Dakhla like? The New York Times recently published an article listing Dakhla as a top destination in 2012. Well I’d like throw my 2 cents in on that. I wouldn’t want all my friends to come to Dakhla following the recommendation of the authoritative NYTimes and then blaming me for not preparing them for their visit.
The attractive aspects of the region are the desert, the beach, the waves. Whether you’re chilling at the beach, basking under the starlight in the desert, or riding a cool blue wave, when you go out to these places, you feel like you have everything to yourself. It’s pretty awesome.
The city (if you can call it that) is growing in all the wrong places and neglecting all the necessary dimensions of urban development. Its growth lacks any foresight, planning or common sense. Utilities like electricity, water, and fuel are in short supply yet resources are squandered to vanity projects like water fountains and marble facades for hotel franchises. Meanwhile, most apartments do not have running water, electricity goes out 2 out of every 10 days, and the public transit system is nonexistent.
If you take a stroll through town center, you may notice a foul, industrial smelling stench. There’s a landfill right off the beach, not two miles away from the center. In this landfill, they burn trash. What trash they don’t burn, they push into the ocean. If you fly into Dakhla international airport, which happens to be half a mile from the landfill, you’ll be greeted with a horrible smelling, cloud of toxic fumes. If you thought that constructing an airport near a landfill made little sense, it gets worse. They’ve built a school right next to the land fill. That’s right folks. If you drive down the road toward the beach and look out the right window, first you’ll see the airport, then the school, and finally a long stretch of landfill.Now I don’t know which came first, the school or the landfill. But subjecting elementary school kids to daily doses of toxic chemicals wafting into the classrooms from burning trash, not 50 meters away is pretty deplorable.
Far be it from me to point my finger at their wobbly train of prosperity and growth, and maybe in the distant future this city will become a shining example of what a beach towns should look like. But I simply can’t help but to associate inhaling white smoke from burning refuse shortening my life span, to this “tourist destination of the year”.