Attraction themed around the blue Belgian comic book characters was pitched in 2012
As part of our ongoing summer series, we will be looking back at some of the most colourful and extraordinary proposals pitched in the UAE and the wider Gulf and investigating what happened to them.
In the last few weeks, we have looked at plans for an underwater tennis stadium pitched by a Polish architect, Hollywood actor Brad Pitt’s ideas for a series of environmentally-friendly projects, a Swedish firm’s designs for a moving statue, a Chinese team’s ambitions for a technologically advanced neighbourhood in the shape of a globe and a Hong Kong designer’s vision of a heart-shaped water park containing the world’s highest water slide.
We also looked at a former president of the Russian republic of Kalmykia’s dream of a city with towers shaped like a chessboard, plans for an underwater TV studio and a crystal ball-shaped football museum in time for the 2022 World Cup, a tower in Abu Dhabi with a futuristic exterior that changes with the surrounding environment, a theme park in Dubai dedicated to the classic Herbie movie franchise and a tower named after Michael Schumacher.
Today, we are looking at Bahrain’s Smurf Village attraction.
The Smurfs, the blue coloured cartoon characters created by Belgian comics artist Pierre Culliford, celebrated their 60th anniversary last year.
The franchise has proved spectacularly popular around the world, with comics, TV shows, merchandise and three Hollywood movies centred around their comical misadventures.
While Dubai Parks and Resort launched a Smurf Village attraction as part of its rides when it opened in December 2016, Bahrain was ahead of the game when it announced plans for a $5 million theme park in 2012.
The Smurf Village was given the go ahead by Bahrain authorities and was to be built on a 8,350 square metre site in West Riffa at the Prince Khalifa bin Salman Grand Garden, it was reported in September 2012.
The design included plans for 30 mushroom-shaped Smurf houses measuring around 50 square metres, which could accommodate up to 20 children in each one.
In addition, the report said there would also be a 250 square metre Papa Smurf house, a 220 square metre castle, which would be home to the Smurf’s nemesis Gargamel, a café, aquarium, stables and a souvenir shop.
"We will provide investors with the utmost support and will work with them to get the park ready in a fast and efficient manner, which includes helping them get the required approvals from bodies concerned," a Central Municipal Council member was quoted as saying in 2012.
However, the project ran into trouble and in September 2014 it was announced the project had been pulled after two years of delays.
Bahrain’s Central Municipal Council, which approved the project, did not give an explanation for the move but it was believed a main sponsor had pulled out.
“We are sad that the investor has decided to pull out despite it being an ambitious project that we were eager, keen and enthusiastic to have,” a council executive was quoted as saying.
“Since approving it in September 2012, I have been receiving calls asking when it was going to happen, people were anticipating it and it was shocking to hear that he has pulled out.
“That project would have been the first of its kind in the region and it had a unique theme and for that I backed it from the first stage, but there was a blackout for some time and feedback stopped, before the bad news,” he added.
That said, the experience has not put Bahrain off pursuing outlandish theme park ideas.
This year it was reported Bahrain authorities had bought a decommissioned Boeing 747 aircraft from the UAE for $100,000 and planned to sink it into the sea as part of plans for the kingdom’s new underwater theme park.
In June, executives said the aircraft was moved to a site off Diyar Al Muharraq and would be lowered into the sea and submerged 20 metres below the surface.
It is the centrepiece for Dive Bahrain, which will be the kingdom’s new underwater theme park set to open in August.
Other features will include a submerged replica of a traditional Bahraini pearl merchant’s house, artificial coral reefs and other sculptures that have been placed underwater as a safe haven for coral growth and as a habitat for marine animals.
Coming up tomorrow: The Pamela Anderson Eco Resort
Check out the other projects in the series:
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