Of long ago
witnesses the revival of Ras Al-Barr as a major tourist centre
Click to view caption|
The promenade of Ras Al-Barr, and below, the Damietta Corniche, both after renovation
Imagine a beachside town with no pollution or factories, just an expanse of gardens lined with palm trees and resorts ensconced in rustic surroundings. This would be Ras Al-Barr, an island-town nestled between the Mediterranean and the eastern branch of the Nile.
Ras Al-Barr rose to fame in 1823, when Sufi sects in Damietta celebrated the festival of Sheikh El-Girbi in the southern part of the town. Because of its location, it soon became a centre for business as well as pleasure. Families from nearby Damietta would sail in small boats for a picnic on the island's shores while others would spend the night in huts made of papyrus.
By 1865, Ras Al-Barr had become an official entertainment resort, with huts fronting the Nile and the sea and the first batch of brick-built restaurants. In 1902, the town was developed enough to earn its first map, which shows the locations of the huts and markets and comes with a few tips on land use and rentals. This was quite remarkable for a town that was inundated with sea water for most of the year. World War I brought another boom to the city as the well-heeled classes of Cairo started heading there for vacation -- Europe being inaccessible because of the hostilities.
Today, the town is ready for a further revival of tourism, says Mohamed Fathi El-Baradei, governor of Damietta. Ras Al-Barr has been landscaped. The town's famous jetty, or Al-Lisan (literally the tongue), has turned into a modern commercial centre boasting 23 shops and seven cafés. A show telling visitors about the town and the nearby city of Damietta is being staged regularly nearby.
The governorate has spent LE4 million on sprucing up the resort, planting palm trees along a 3km stretch on Port Said Street, the resort's main boulevard. The authorities have built a new ring road in nearby Damietta and renovated the city's riverside boulevard.
Governor El-Baradei is pleased with the result. "I call on investors to come to this great spot. We welcome any investor and the governorate will offer all backing and facilities to businessmen."
Close to Al-Lisan, the authorities plan to build a five-star hotel spanning 11,000 square metres, and which is expected to create some 2,000 jobs.
Meanwhile, a new development, dubbed Shatei Al-Nakhil (palm beach) is taking shape on the outskirts of the resort. And an artificial gulf that aspires to compete with Sharm El-Sheikh's famous Neama Bay is also in the cards.
The authorities are encouraging investors to take advantage of the new opportunities. "We're putting the final touches on a tourist complex to be called Ras Al-Barr Zaman (Ras Al-Barr of long ago)," says El-Baradei. The new site involves tourist dwellings, swimming pools and beach activities.