THE Grand Hassan II mosque has become the landmark of Casablanca, with its 200-metre minaret dominating the skyline and its courtyards and halls attracting local families for their weekend stroll. The mosque was completed in 1993 by Bymaro, the local subsidiary of France's Bouygues.
The head of Bymaro, and director of Bouygues' Mediterranean operations, is Aldo Carbonaro, a Frenchman born in Tunis and a convert to Islam. He has built seven mosques in total, but the Grand Mosque is the masterpiece.
Bymaro draws upon the skills of local master craftsmen for special features, such as wood carving and tile-making, in its mosque-building projects. It also uses qualified Moroccans for its technical work. The success of the Grand Hassan II project has given the company a high profile which it is looking to exploit further afield.
The company was recently awarded the contract to build the central mosque in the central Asian republic of Turkmenistan. Moroccan craftsmen will travel to Turkmenistan to work on the project, says Carbonaro. Bouygues has high hopes of winning the estimated $150 million contract to build the Grand Mosque of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan II in Abu Dhabi, which will be out to tender in the autumn.
However, the main focus for its work will remain Morocco, where the company successfully mixes the application of French finance with the cost and technical benefits of using a well-trained, local workforce. Francis Bouygues, the charismatic group founder, maintained good relations with the kingdom up to his death in 1993.
Bouygues has been responsible for a number of Morocco's major projects, including the new Agadir airport and the recently opened headquarters of Tractiafric, a subsidiary of ONA.
Bymaro is set to undertake other major projects in Morocco as the government seeks to tackle the chronic problems of inadequate urban infrastructure and unacceptable levels of pollution.
Work is under way on the construction of a huge sewage outflow system in Casablanca Bay, where pipes are being laid along a 1-kilometre, purpose- built causeway. At present most of the effluent generated by the city's estimated 4 million population is pumped directly into the sea. The new outflow and associated treatment plant will be capable of taking half of the city's sewage.
Bymaro is well placed for another contract to build a second wastewater evacuation facility for Casablanca, to be sited at the nearby industrial city of Mohammedia. 'There is a very large potential for water-work,' says Carbonaro, although officials are reticent about discussing the possibilities for other major contracts.
The government is discussing the role of the private sector in developing water and power projects. If Morocco opts for privatised water or power, French firms are expected to play a leading role, as indicated when King Hassan held talks with Jerome Monot, chairman of Lyonnaise des Eaux-Dumez (MEED 10:6:94, Cover Story).
Bouygues' subsidiary Saur International has been identified as a strong contender for this type of work, having secured similar contracts in other developing countries, including Cote d'Ivoire.
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