Exploring Morocco

Agadir Days 1-2

I chose to use Agadir as my arrival and departure base as it was the easiest airport to arrive and depart from Glasgow. Agadir itself was flattened by an earthquake in 1960 and subsequently has been built up along the style of the French Riviera with a long sweeping promenade, above the beach, and hotel resorts set back from the prom. The resort I stayed in, Les Dunes D’or Resort next to the Rui Hotel Resort, had a lovely pool in the middle. I’d pre booked an all inclusive stay, without realising until I arrived, so I was greeted with an evening meal on my arrival. I’d also pre-booked a transfer from the airport to the resort which was both easy and convenient. I really appreciated the communication that both transfers and hotels use through WhatsApp. It made communication with drivers and hosts really easy. The only blip on my arrival was my driver not knowing where the resort was so I used the map app on my phone to direct him!

After dinner I took a long walk along the promenade, on my first evening, and again the following day. I found a charming Italian restaurant to sit outside and enjoy a coffee and shelter under an umbrella from the sun. Ironic given the weather in Scotland at the time!

From here I walked into old Agadir, not much left after the earthquake. I found an ATM to get some cash, Morocco is very much a cash-based economy. Next to this was a restaurant where I sat and watched the world go by and had a tasty lunch and I was extremely well looked after by my host Said.

My second day in Agadir was focused on getting to Marrakech. I’d booked a coach using CTM, via the website. At a return price of £16 this was so easy and convenient. The coach was comfortable and had air conditioning. A 3-hour road trip with no stops (we did stop on the return journey). Arriving in Marrakech into the hustle and bustle of the city, I decided to stay in the Riad the first night. Enjoying the ambiance of the Riad which was located in the middle of the old city a 10-minute walk from the main square and souks. But what a walk through twisting and turning alleyways. I was grateful for the map and “induction” my host, Abdu, had given me on my arrival at Riad Djebel.

Marrakech Days 3-4

My days started with a simple breakfast, taken on the roof terrace, with a fruit salad, toasts, jam, pancake, syrup, coffee and fresh orange juice. I was surrounded by small birds and their birdsongs along with a cockerel crowing. From the Riad I walked down to Jemaa-el-Fna Square and had coffee at Cafe Argana, I sat watching the world go by. From there I walked through the Souks on to the (Cyber) Parc Arset Moulay Abdessalam, followed by a visit to the Musee Des Confluences. Walking back to find somewhere to eat lunch I was propositioned by a barber called Youness and had a haircut, beard trim and shave. I then found my way into the Moorish Kitchen & Cafe where I had a simple lunch of falafel and harissa sauce. I got lost getting back to the Riad. But with a good map and a sense of direction I eventually found my way. Getting lost in the souks in Marrakech is certainly an initiation into the experience of the place.

Atlas Mountains Day 5

My day started with breakfast on the roof terrace with fresh pomegranate, which was absolutely delicious.

My guide and driver for the day, Khalid, met me and we took a long, leisurely drive from Marrakech into the High Atlas Mountains.

First stop was for coffee with a street vendor who Khalid knew well. The coffee was fantastic and served out of the back of a van on the roadside. Khalid knew everyone well and everyone seemed to know him. He was a very happy, cheeky chap. Between my basic level French and his English language skills, with some sprinklings of Arabic, we managed to communicate. We only needed to use the Google translation app once. We bonded over a shared love of rhythms, him playing some excellent Berber and Arabic mixes on his car stereo. And us both tapping along as we drove on into the mountains.

We stopped at a Berber Village in the valley below the mountains. I watched a potter working on his wheel and was encouraged to hold the wet clay. I also got to see inside the kiln and was given a cup as a souvenir.

From here we walked up the hill to the Berber House which is now a museum in the middle of the village. It’s great because it brings tourists into the heart of the Berber community. For an entrance fee of 40 Dirham (£3) I had an hour long tour of the museum, learning all about the traditions and customs, about the weaving of carpets and the mysteries of the women and men in the tradition. Our guide was fluent in French and English and easily swapped between the two languages seamlessly.

From here we drove up into the mountains stopping at a place to see rugs (I skilfully avoided the “hard sell”) and on to a place that sold Argan oil. Again, avoiding any hard sells.

I had lunch sitting next to the river (Berber Tagine) and after lunch I swapped guides and climbed the Jebel Oukaïmeden Mountain (elevation 1551m) to see the waterfall with Abdul my new temporary guide. It was quite slippery in places so I was grateful for good walking shoes.

I had mint tea whilst recovering from the ascent, sitting in the sunshine, and then it was the drive back towards Marrakech, but one more stop at Anima. A fascinating sculpture garden just outside Marrakech. I arrived in complete tranquility. Even the arrival of a group of school children didn’t seem to disturb the experience. With sculpture and artwork by artists including David Hockney and Pablo Picasso it really was quite an unexpected treat.

My final stop of the day was to Carrefour to pick up some food. I was completely overwhelmed as it was just like the hypermarkets you see in France. When I found the fresh fruit and vegetables I didn’t know where to start. Suffice to say a simple selection of bread, olives, tomatoes and avocado met all my requirements.

Temsia Day 6

I stayed my final night at the Villa du Souss Eco Lodge at Temsia. Located about 5K, 10-minute drive, from the airport. My host, Mekki, was so friendly and let me have the run of the entire place with copious food and drink available. I do enjoy a fresh mint tea! I made a new friend, Nina the kitten, who they adopted a few days before after finding her in the boot of the car when other guests had been dropped off.

Overall a fantastic trip to Morocco, my second visit here after a trip many years before in the late 90’s when I’d stayed in Tangier with excursions to Fez, Marrakech and the High Atlas. I really appreciated the warm climate after such cold weather in Scotland in December. After a week of being “locked in” due to the snow and ice. A week of 20-30°C and warm winter sun was so very welcome.

Useful Websites

CTM internal travel website https://ctm.ma/

easyJet flights for Agadir https://www.easyjet.com/en

Les Dunes D’or Resort, Agadir https://atlashotelscollection.com/fr/maroc/hotel/les-dunes-dor-agadir 

Riad Djebel, Marrakech https://riad-djebel.marrakeshotels.com/#photo

Taxi2Airport airport transfers https://www.taxi2airport.com/en/

Villa du Souss Eco Lodge, Temsia https://villadusouss.com

I really recommend the Rough Guide to Morocco when travelling independently https://www.roughguides.com

Please note. Prices accurate at time of travel, December 2022.

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