Rabat, Dec 12 (EFE).- An ambitious project has been launched to develop the Moroccan city of Sale, to bring it up to par with its neighboring city, the country’s capital Rabat, located across the Bou Regreg river.
Sale has suffered from – and been paying for – an uncontrolled population boom over the past few decades.
While Rabat and its 850,000 inhabitants have enjoyed orderly and gradual urban growth and development, Sale’s population exploded from 20,000 inhabitants in 1915 to the current 1.5 million at a rate far outstripping local development.
Over the past few years, public investment has been injected into the area in a bid to ameliorate the situation.
Sale’s first theater is scheduled to be inaugurated in 2023, while 900 million dirhams (about $100 million) have been invested in rehabilitating its walled old city.
Within the old city’s wall, which is 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) long, live 80,000 people, quadruple its 1915 population.
Next to the main city gate in the wall, Mohamed Krombi, the curator of Sale’s historical monuments with the Ministry of Culture, explained the evolution of his city to EFE.
“Since it was selected as the capital by the French (authorities) in 1912, all kinds of good things have been done in Rabat: institutes, university facilities, hospitals, embassies,” he told EFE.
“Sale ended up as a bedroom community. Many people who work and study in Rabat live in Sale because the cost of living is much lower,” he added.
The city was marginalized for historical reasons as its inhabitants, many of whom turned to piracy in the 17th century hijacking European ships bound for Asia, proclaimed the Republic of Sale and stopped obeying the sultan, he explained.
From then on they were considered “rebels” and they refused to mix with people from the other side of the Bou Regreg. Marrying a Rabat resident was a disgrace.
Little by little, relations between the two banks are improving, but obstacles remain because they belong to two municipalities.
“Let’s hope that the mentality changes and that the cities end up being sisters,” said Krombi, who is in charge of supervising the rehabilitation of Sale’s “medina” (the old town) and “souk” (market area).