Aziz Alibhai is a Tanzanian-born entrepreneur based in Ivory Coast. He first came to the West African country in 1968 and he has never left. Alibhai, now in his 70s, is turning discarded planes into tourist attractions, according to AFP.
On his property in Songon, located between forest and lagoon about 30 kilometers from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, are wrecked planes that he has bought. The property hosts his construction machinery rental company and also accommodates his football club, Ivoire Academie.
Alibhai got the idea to start this enterprise following the Ivorian political dispute of 2010 to 2011 which killed over 3,000 people and destroyed vital public infrastructure. Many planes were also left abandoned at Abidjan airport.
With his innovative mindset, he decided to acquire the planes which were in ruins or abandoned and convert them into tourist destinations. “It cost me an arm and a leg but I was so excited,” he told AFP.
He acquired 11 disused planes and moved them to the site of his construction machinery rental company. “Some planes had to be cut into two or three sections to be able to transport them without blocking the whole road,” he recalled.
Alibhai knows his planes to the core, including their names. “So we have about 11 aircraft in all. There’s a DC-10, there are three Boeing 737s, there are three Fokker 28s, two Fokker-27s, there’s an Antonov-12, and then there’s the little twin-engine Aztec 23,” he said.
He explained how he intends to turn the discarded planes into tourist destinations. “I would like to turn them into conference rooms, a restaurant and — why not? — luxury bedrooms,” he told AFP. “We can modify them easily — the cabins have insulation and with a little air conditioning it could work very well,” he said.
Some of the planes he has assembled include one which once belonged to a company called Electra Airlines. It has inscriptions in the Greek alphabet. His Antonov An-12 was a military transport and cargo hauler in the former Soviet Union.
According to AFP, seats have been taken out of most of the planes for spectators to use on the stands of the Ivoire Academie grounds. Some first-class seats are also on Alibhai’s terrace.
He has other ideas on how to give his wrecked planes a second life. “Displaying the aircraft components in a kind of museum, showing the planes’ most sophisticated parts — that is also something I’d like to do,” he noted.