Just in thanks to atheist
From Surfers Paradise to tourist Arab Mecca
SURFERS Paradise could be turned into a souk and Cavill Avenue into a kasbah as part of a bold plan to make the Gold Coast a ‘Ramadan-friendly zone’.
Gold Coast Meter Maid?
Arabic-style marquees, traditional coffee shops, halal restaurants and Middle Eastern entertainment would pop up in Surfers, Broadbeach and at theme parks to encourage big-spending, long-staying Middle Eastern tourists to come here next year during the usually travel-shy holy period of Ramadan.
Nassif Lawand, managing director of inbound tour operators Lawand Tourism, said 2009 would be the first time in 30 years that Ramadan had encroached into the July-August period, traditionally the time Middle Eastern tourists flock to the Gold Coast to escape the stifling heat and sapping humidity of home.
The idea, Mr Lawand said, would not only attract Arabs during Ramadan when people were more reluctant to travel, but could also steal a march on some of the world’s most glamorous cities. Muslims from Melbourne, Sydney, Malaysia and Indonesia could also be lured here as Surfers Paradise becomes ‘Ramadan Paradise’.
“This could really be made into an opportunity because no other destinations that are global cities can do that — I can’t see Paris or London or Sydney or Geneva doing something like turning their destination into a Ramadan-friendly place,” said Mr Lawand.
“Ramadan means they (Muslims) do things at night and sleep during the day, so we could do basic things like erecting a few Arabic tents around Surfers Paradise where they could sit around and smoke shisha (pipes) and drink (Arabic) coffees, perhaps making restaurants stay open at certain times and offering genuine halal foods so they can break their fast at that time.”
His company had already discussed the idea with Gold Coast Tourism and Tourism Queensland and wanted to set up a working party including the Gold Coast City Council and local restaurateurs to make it happen.
Gold Coast Tourism’s international director Gordon Price said he was right behind the transformation idea. “Because they are fasting from sunrise to sunset, what we would expect is quite an influx of people coming out at night-time en masse, so it’s a question of creating some precincts in Surfers Paradise or maybe Broadbeach and maybe even at theme parks that provide them with that night-time activity,” said Mr Price.
“And it’s not just the food — there’s also potential for bringing some entertainers in and creating a real festival atmosphere where they can sit with compatriots and enjoy Ramadan.”
Ramadan forbids all eating, drinking, smoking during the month of religious observance. “Or anything close to it — you can’t even look at a woman in a sexual manner,” said Mr Lawand.
He laughed at a suggestion that the Surfers Paradise economically clad maids might have to be more circumspect during the holy month, should the plans go ahead.
“Maybe we’ll just have to bring them out at night-time,” said Mr Price.
Alternating nights at theme parks and nightly transfers to the Arundel mosque would also be part of the move.
Mr Lawand said the move would be an experiment, but worth a go, as Ramadan would enter further into July and August in 2010, 2011 and 2012, severely threatening the lucrative Middle Eastern market.