food / travel

Tulum, The Anti-Cancun Clings To Caribbean Charm

Sumptuous beaches and low-key vibes in Tulum, on Mexico's Caribbean coast, have attracted those keen to avoid the crowds and bling of the most popular resorts. But will it last?

Ruins with a view
Ruins with a view
America Economia

TULUM — This "Mayan Riviera" town is known for both dreamy beaches and crystalline waters, as well as rare Mayan ruins. We can say that Tulum is everything nearby Cancún is not. Instead of noisy hotels, it features environmentally friendly bungalow-style tourist lodgings. Prices remain affordable. And the main consumers here continue to be of the "hippy" or backpacking variety.

Changes, however, are afoot. Thanks to surge in attention from real estate investors, Tulum may well go the way of Cancún and Playa del Carmen, former fishing towns that are now top international tourism destinations.

Interest in the village is growing steadily. Tulum’s population has grown threefold since 2000, and since 2008, employment opportunities have doubled. The state government of Quintana Roo, furthermore, is expanding a rail network to connect strategic points and boost hotel, catering and tourist activity.

All this, according to sector sources, is being done in such a way as to protect the area’s fascinating natural landscape, which has attracted various celebrity visitors, including Demi Moore, Heidi Klum and Jude Law. Small beachfront hotels, in the meantime, are remodeling their facilities and raising prices every season. There is an increase both in the number luxury boutique hotels and in the quality of available lodgings. More gourmet eateries have opened, while the overall number of visitors, many of them "eco-chic" tourists from New York, has risen as well.

Photo — Kurayba

All this has fueled a desire to exploit the area's real estate potential. An example is the Aldea Zama project, which includes plans for a golf course, living spaces and a "downtown" promenade complete with restaurants and boutiques, in the manner of Playa del Carmen’s Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue).

Investors seeking higher returns have already begun looking further out, with some people purchasing cheaper plots outside Aldea Zamá or similar settings. Other options include larger plots by the sea, which are ideal for hotels or beachfront condos and are valued in the millions, or 300-square-meter lots, located approximately 10 minutes from the beach, which cost somewhere in the $40,000 range and where buyers, for an additional $120,000, can build a two-story residence and swimming pool.

Photo — TristanF

Riviera Maya Property Consultants, one of the agencies operating in the area, says investors can expect a steady return. It claims that property prices are rising by an average of 8% annually — in some coastal areas the rate is higher still — and that people who are buying to rent can expect an annual income of approximately 10%.

The recently discovered paradise of Tulum is already attracting investors from Mexico itself, the U.S. and Argentina, among other places. Riviera Maya analysts say the growing interest is due in part to ongoing economic problems in southern Europe and to the absence of similarly attractive real estate opportunities in the U.S. It hardly comes as a surprise, they say, that investors are tapping into the emerging Mexican economy, especially given Tulum’s spectacular setting, perfect climate, and proximity to the U.S.

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Iran To Offer Master's And PhD In Morality Enforcement

For those aiming to serve the Islamic Republic of Iran as experts to train the public morality agents, there are now courses to obtain the "proper" training.

Properly dressed in the holy city of Qom.

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

A woman in Tehran walks past a mural of an Iranian flag

The traffic police chief recently said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes

Rouzbeh Fouladi/ZUMA

New academic discipline

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

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