They were renowned for being authentic fishing villages, still preserved from speculation. Postcard settings with their troglodyte houses, their blue boats and their wild coastline, washed away one after the other by the push of the bulldozers. In the name of the “liberation of the maritime public domain”, the Moroccan state has launched a vast operation to demolish all forms of “illegal occupation” on the coastline of the south of the country.

This sudden wave of destruction began on December 25 in Tifnit, a village nestled on a rocky point 40 kilometers south of Agadir. That morning, “it was like war,” says a resident, still in shock, who wished to remain anonymous. “Law enforcement opened the doors and let people out. When they started attacking the first houses near the parking lot, we understood that the excavators were going to advance towards our house. We just had time, in a panic, to empty the house, in the middle of rubble, soldiers and looters! “, she emphasizes.

If many residents were caught off guard, a rumor had been circulating since a letter dated December 6 received by some of them, in which the provincial infrastructure directorate demanded “the restoration to the initial state” of the premises in a period of five days. “We knew we were on the maritime domain,” explains the owner of a holiday home. But we had bought a house number – a transfer of usufruct, signed at the notary, validated by a lawyer and registered in court. We would never have imagined that they would shave everything! » Tifnit has been wiped off the map. The debris was covered with sand; only one dune remains.

The operation then extended to the neighboring beaches of Sidi Toual, Douira, Sidi Rbat, Wassay… up to Imsouane, a world-famous surf spot, despite the strong mobilization of residents and lovers of the place. After an oral order to evacuate within twenty-four hours given on January 17, the excavators began their work. Ten days later, the historic center of the village called Tasblast was completely destroyed. Shops, cafes and surfshops were not spared either.

A highly coveted coastline

Narimane Es Saadi owned a house there leaning against the cliff. “It’s an entire community established here for almost a century that was driven out overnight,” she protests. Hundreds of people find themselves without a roof over their heads or a source of income. They’ve gone I don’t know where, with their bundles. My heart breaks for them! » Twenty-five years ago, this Moroccan from Casablanca fell under the spell of this little coastal paradise. “A blessed place,” she recalls, “where Berber culture and fishing tradition blended harmoniously with surf tourism. This sweetness of life is over. »

Old-timers could tell the story of these small coastal villages, born from a few shelters built by fishermen several decades ago, which residents and vacationers have expanded and renovated over time. But behind the postcard, officials cited in the local press report problems of squats, dilapidation, unsanitary conditions… “Unsanitary?, chokes up Siham Azeroual, independent journalist and native of the region. We are talking about Amazigh [Berber] troglodyte dwellings, built according to the traditional methods of our ancestors! What is the Ministry of Culture doing to protect these endangered gems? I will never forgive this government for having erased this heritage. »

The “liberation of the maritime public domain” must continue along the coastline of the Souss-Massa region, authorities have warned. “After all, the State is within its rights,” recognizes Ahmed (first name has been changed), a resident of Imsouane. We all knew that the occupation of this land was illegal and the authorities had complete freedom to demand its return. They decided to strictly apply the law. The question is: why now and so abruptly? »

On a highly coveted coastline, there is no doubt, according to the defenders of these villages, that it is a question of making way for new tourist projects. In the Souss-Massa national park, which runs along the coast south of Agadir, there is talk of creating a “Blue Safari” expedition: an 80-kilometer circuit, including a new offer of entertainment and accommodation, which must connect Agadir to seven sites in the park, including Tifnit, Sidi Rbat, Sidi Toual… the very ones that were destroyed. Cost of the project: 1.5 billion dirhams (138 million euros), including 200 million (18.4 million euros) covered by the State, according to an article from Medias24 published in July. A private investor was to be sought before December.

Also near Casablanca

Fifteen new tourist zones are also planned in the metropolis of Greater Agadir, including Imsouane. The village development plan dated February 2022, which Le Monde consulted, provides for the construction of around ten hotels as well as restaurants, sports fields, a swimming pool, a wellness center… This new space of 18 hectares to the north of the commune should not, however, include the old center of Tasblast, which appeared to be an area in need of renovation. Has the plan changed? When contacted, the local authorities – prefecture, region, tourism delegation – did not respond to our requests.

In 2012, a vast project worth one billion euros had already been launched: Taghazout Bay, a high-end seaside resort near Agadir comprising five-star hotels, golf courses, villas and premium residences. “Are we going to clear out the small ones to make room for the big ones?”, worries Hicham Limati, honorary president of the Confederation of Moroccan tourist surfing companies. What makes Imsouane famous is of course the wave – one of the longest in Africa – but also all these small businesses and inns which have allowed this place to be talked about for four decades. . I’m not against law enforcement, but instead of destroying, why not improve and help these people reap the fruits of their labor? »

The destruction of these coastal villages is a “great loss for our clients looking for a change of scenery, authenticity, contact with the local population,” regrets a travel agency manager in Agadir, speaking on condition of anonymity. No doubt we want to develop new, modern, grandiose products, but there is room for everyone on our shores! Not to mention that this is not the way we are going to align with trends in the sector, geared towards sustainable tourism.” As such, “there is nothing better than these villages for developing ecotourism, around traditional fishing, the village experience and surfing,” adds James MacGregor, Canadian consultant in sustainable tourism, who has carried out several expertise in Souss-Massa. These are the kinds of experiences that 80% of global travelers are looking for today. »

In recent weeks, demolitions have also affected the coast of Casablanca. On January 12, the islet of Sidi Abderrahmane on the corniche, known for housing the tomb of a marabout around whom fortune tellers were established, was evacuated and the illegal constructions destroyed. Four days later, it was the turn of the huts on Dahomey beach in Bouznika, 50 kilometers north of the economic capital of the kingdom, to be razed. The “recovery” of public space also targets street vendors and carts, in a metropolis that aims to be modern and attractive, soon to be in the spotlight during two major football events – the 2025 African Cup of Nations and the 2030 World Cup – but to the detriment of many poor workers who find themselves without a livelihood.