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Ten years in Camphill Accounts of a volunteer vagabond filled with copious amounts of wanderlust

in and out of Agadir

UNITED KINGDOM | Friday, 21 November 2014 | Views [306]

old woman leading her donkey

I had certain small reservations about my trip to Morocco before I left. Mainly because I read too many scare stories on the internet about the increased amount of hustlers, beggars and all sorts of other funny people. I’ve also read about the lack of transportation from Agadir to other places. A few bus companies are operating from Agadir, well actually from outside Agadir, from another town called Inezgane. I’ve looked for their timetables on the net but haven’t found anything tangible and useful, they seem to have a very loose working structure. The hotel I booked had good reviews on some travel sites, so that was good. And the idea of being in weather conditions which are 10 degrees or more than in the UK seemed to be the most attractive. With all this in mind I booked a coach ticket to Victoria, and then the Gatwick Express to the airport. Gatwick has two terminals North and South, mine was the North terminal, which is the farthest.

 

The flight was relatively comfy and we arrived to Agadir Al Massira airport (I hope I pronounced right, cause I’m writing this from memory). I had to fill in a landing card and we were queuing for a long time. After a while I got impatient and I was jumping from one queue to another. Finally I was out from the airport. As soon as I walked out from there, I was

joined by a few taxi drivers. In front of the airport there are loads of taxis waiting ready to transport people. Needn’t I mention that this is the only means of transportation into Agadir, there’s also a local bus, but that stops in Inezgane and from there another bus needs to be taken – it seemed far too complicated to go for it. So I got in a taxi  (cost me about 200 dirhams/ 20 euro) which took me all the way to my hotel which is called Studiotel Afoud. On the way, in the dark I got a few early glimpses of Morocco, and it all seemed quite strange, but expected in a way.

 

Having arrived at the hotel, I had a quick shower and went out for a very quick neighbourhood exploration. I was actually hungry so I got into the first shop I could find and bought bread, cheese, water...the essentials. And then back to the hotel. It was too dark to walk too far on the first evening.  As I was walking back to the hotel I saw my first donkey cart on the side of the road between parked cars, with two donkeys waiting calmly in the night.

 

My hotel room was affordable and attractive enough to spend a week’s holiday in it. It had a double bed, a kitchenette, a balcony and an en-suite bathroom.  I switched on the TV and watched a bit of NBC and went to bed.

 

In the morning I went out on the balcony to see the view, and it wasn’t too bad. I could see quite far till some hills, and I saw several prayer towers or muezzins I think that’s what they’re called. The weather looked good, so it was just about time to go and find the beach. I didn’t have a map, but I checked Google maps and I had certain sense of direction. So I

started walking and in about 20 minutes I was on the beach. I walked a length of it till the Kasbah hill, which is overlooking the city and it has big Arab inscriptions in it, something like God, Country and...I don’t remember the

third inscription. Some kids were rugby training on the beach, and there were loads of smaller groups of kids, guys playing football and volley. They like football here, because when there’s low tide, then the wet sand becomes hard

and flat and it’s ideal for football.  

 

While I was walking on the seafront I started meeting my first characters, they usually stopped people by waving to them, then saying welcome to Morocco and then trying to sell you hashish, marijuana, trips/tours, women...you name it.:) One of the guys pointed me into the direction of a market, so I had the wild idea to walk there. Another guy who joined me -  and surprisingly he was the only guy who didn’t want to sell anything, just wanted to chat – he said that the market is about 10 km-res away. So I suspected that they are talking about the Inezgane market. I started walking anyway, and after a while I got to a taxi station and I thought..ok...I’ll have a lift. But if you’re a foreigner and you don’t know the distinctions between the taxis then you’re lost. I got into a petit taxi instead of a grand taxi. Small taxis only operate within the city, but I didn’t know that at that time. So I got into one of these petit taxis and I said I

want to go to the market. The driver said ok and also said that it’s the Souk I’m talking about. I didn’t know what the Souk was, but I said to him let’s go and I’ll find out. After 2 minutes driving we arrived to the Souk, and now I

know that it’s one of the markets in Agadir (that one was the vegetable market), but it wasn’t the market I wanted to go to, and it was certainly not 10 kilometres away. And I got hustled by the driver, because I paid 10 dirhams and later on I realized that the Souk was just around a corner from the taxi stop, and he just drove me around a little bit. When I got out from the taxi, I was immediately joined by a guy, saying that he will guide me. I said, that I don’t need a guide, but he was really persistent and he said that he works for the mayor’s office and the market so I don’t have to pay him, he will just show me around. Luckily I read about stories like these before on the net, and I knew that he will take me to different corners of the market and will try to convince me to buy something, because if I do, then he will get a commission from the seller. So he showed me vegetables, and when he saw that I wasn’t too keen then we went to see garments and pottery and even Moroccan Viagra and that’s when I said goodbye to him. I was considering to take a turn behind his back, but I thought he would chase me, so I just said to him that I really don’t want to buy anything and off I went, my mood as well, so I got out from the Souk. When I was outside, I found myself in  quite a rundown area, but lots of interesting faces/people coming and going so I snapped a few photos. One of them was really funny, because I caught a guy while he was having a shit on the side of a dried out riverbed. And it seemed all so simple for him. You know they are all wearing robes to cover their body even in this heat, so he just squatted down, pulled up his robe, and simple as that, the product dropped out. Now that was about it, my brief encounters with the Souk...I carried on walking and ended up in the Talborjit area which has actually been completely destroyed in 1960 by an earthquake. This place is

slightly off the tourist path, so it was good for me to see some local faces. I walked past a homless man sleeping with a baguette tucked safely under his head.

 

PART 2

 

On the outskirts of Agadir is very common to see carts pulled by donkeys. I think some people are making a living out of collecting rubbish and re-using what they can, even re-selling bits and bobs on some shady markets. I had to stop and stare in one of the donkey's face standing just outside an abandoned warehouse. As I carried on walking I was apporached by a beggar, an older man. He seemed to be an excellent photo-subject so I gave him 5 dirhams and asked him whether I could take a photo. He swiftly refused and walked away from me. More and more it seems that people feel quite uncomfortable by having their photos taken. A few minutes later I found myself in front of Jardim de Olhao, one of the bigger gardens of Agadir, and wandered inside. By the entrance a middle aged man was preoccupied with his oil paintings and some of his completed works were hanging next to his tiny workshop. I had a stroll underneath the palm trees of the garden, noticed a cat, listened to the birds and admired some of the stone walls built inside the garden. They must've been the recreation of something more famous, I couldn't tell, but I found it fascinating that out of hundreds of pieces of chipped stone they built a beautiful wavy shaped wall with impressive archways and mini courtyards. I carried on walking without really having a plan or a map. I enjoy discovering a town, a city by just walking in it and the idea of getting lost and not knowing where I might be thrills me. It is fun to find my way back to familiar places, and sometimes I would need to ask for guidance. So there I was, crossing the street past another beggar, a woman who chose to beg on the street trying to stop cars. For a moment I thought I would repeat what I did a while back, to offer some money and then try to take a photo, but then I gave up on the idea. I walked past a few mosques, and on my way people were giving me curious looks.

The car of the poorer person in Agadir seems to be the Renault 12, which looks exactly like the Romanian Dacia, that's because the Romanians have acquired the model and carried on building Renault type Dacias till recent years. As I walked past the car, my tummy started rambling and the voided cosmos in my stomach needed to be filled. So I entered a roadside restaurant and ordered fish soup, tajine kefta and eggs, and mint tea. This was supposed to be quite a traditional meal in Morocco, so i was satisfied with my choice. I was pretty much satisfied with the meal as well. I like the idea of having olives and bread on the side next to every meal, and they are not mean at all with their portions. So the fish soup came out, a bit hot, but felt good after almost a day's walk and fies appeared, they seemed to be eager to help me out in my efforts. I loved the mint tea. They must be using fresh mint leaves and plenty of it, because the tea had quite a strong minty taste sweetened with sugar. And the way they pour the tea seems to be dangerous, but the waiter didn't spill any of it on me, just lifted the tea pot half metre high and poured it in my glass.

Satisfied, with some small burp aftershocks and leaving 10 percent tip behind I left the restaurant and carried on walking.  I got to a neighbourhood area with really run down buildings, one of them looked like Noah's arc, bars on the balconies and windows, rubbish around it, antennas and dozens of satellite dishes on the top of the building. I was joined by a guy trying to sell me hashish again but I was already used to this, so I refused. A few minutes later I noticed a Carrefour shop. Seemed to be odd, but it was really there. I went inside and bought some peaches. With a juice peach in my hand I stopped in front of a travel agency called Supratours buses. I figured I take my chances, go inside and ask for timetables and whether they could tell me how to get to a place called Tiznit and how to get back. The guy didn't know any English, only French. I have learnt French in school, but haven't practiced it for years. So with my coarse French I was asking for directions, and he seemed to understand me, but I was disappointed to hear that buses only go from Inezgane, the town 10 km'res away from Agadir and he said he doesn't know the bus timetables on the way back from Tiznit. Uncertain of what to do the next day, I have thanked him and walked back on the seafront. I found myself in front of a bird park, or a zoo called Vallee des Oiseaux, the valley of the birds. I went inside and indeed there were loads of birds hurdled in their cages hens together with peacocks,flamingos, parrots and ducks...seemed to be a strange combination. I saw some mountain goats, alpacas, muflons...so I took a few more photos. As I walked out I saw a street artist selling his touristic paintings, usually a desert scene, an oasis, a mosque, some berber people...things like these portrayed. Opposite him there was a large group of Africans (they were from Mali) and a berber man. They were selling carved african statues. Three or four of them were really busy carving. The berber man sitting with them had the most unusual and photogenic face. I feel really sorry that I haven't been able to take a photo of him. He had this deep stare as he looked people straight in their eyes. Some guy wanted to sell me some argan oil but I wasn't particularly curious at that time. I looked at the children on the square for a while. Some merchants have taken out a load of horse shaped trycicles and for a few dirhams lots of children could have a go, a race. The amount of concentration on their faces while they were riding their trikes! They seemed to enjoy it a lot.

When I got back on the seafront facing the Agadir holy hill it definitely felt like a different part of the day. Maybe also because it was a sunday evening, it seemed that the whole of Agadir has suddenly gathered on the beach. Families walking up and down, children, young and older women, covered and uncovered faces, street vendors everywhere, chatter and laughter everywhere. I sat down to smoke a cigarette, when a little girl sat next to me, put her little hand on my shoulder and looked into my camera. I had to show her the photos I've taken, and then she has shown me her bicycle. She asked me to take photos of her bike. Her mother arrived an instant later and she apologized in a makeshift French, she also said that she hasn't learnt too much French in school. So they were talking to me in Arabic, I was talking to them in English and we got along really well. The giggling little girl was clinging on me, fiddling with my camera. Then I thought soon it would be time to head back to the hotel. So I said goodbye to the woman and her little daughter and walked back slowly. After all that walking I already knew exactly where to go, how to get back to the hotel. Had a cigarette on the balcony, switched English France 24 on, and watched some news about the greek protests,  bailout attempts and Romanians having been forbidden to work in Spain. Slowly I fell asleep and had some weird dreams of passing through Recas colony in Romania. Gipsies have built pagodas, castles and fortresses  there after years of begging and crime throughout Europe. Someone told me once that one gipsy family have completed their massive building, but carried on living in a hut attached to the building. You see strange things everywhere I suppose.:) With this in mind I was looking forward to see new strange things in Morocco, the next day.

 

CONUNDRUMS IN INEZGANE

It is pretty cheap to have a meal in Morocco, and it is worth experimenting with the local flavours. We can go to Nando’s some other time. Apropos, chicken: I’ve been gobsmacked when I saw a GFC in Agadir. It put a smile on my face. Yeah, when I was young I couldn’t really afford a Nike, so I bought a Mike instead on the Russian market. Anyway, why would the chicken be from Kentucky when we’re in Morocco?

So getting back to the tagine. This is the national stuff. You can buy all sorts, and it’s prepared in various ways. And it goes in line with the tagine-pot making business. You’re not a real tourist if you don’t buy at least a tagine pot in one of the souvenir shops. I guess I wasn’t a real tourist myself, because I was happier to get myself a shisha. There has to be meat in tagine and that can be chicken or beef with all sorts of vegetables on the top starting from sweet potatoes to carrots, peppers, onions, and then everything is dumped together in a decent size tagine pot. It is generally eaten with couscous which is as vital in Morocco as rice in China.

I haven’t eaten that much soup whilst I stayed in Morocco (only fish soup and chicken soup), so I can’t describe a good traditional Moroccan soup.

Meat. It is hanging everywhere on Moroccan streets, those butcher shops have given me the jeepers creepers. There must be many flesh eating creatures lurking in the alcoves. So, all these meat bits are hanging on hooks everywhere, a bit like in Hostel. The customer will pick the right size and amount, the butcher will take it off the hook and with a reasonably sharp butchers knife…slash slash…you can hear the sound of the breaking carcass, frightened flies fleeing for their lives…and the product is on the counter wrapped elegantly into yesterday’s edition of Al Mountakhab. Forgive my ignorance but I was sceptical most times when I had a taste of the local meat.

As I mentioned earlier, mint tea is the traditional drink around here, and it’s the sign of hospitality, in many places they serve you mint tea free of charge, bit like green tea in Japanese restaurants or eateries. And it’s incredibly strong, fresh and sweet. I might’ve mentioned that too.

I’ve expected to have a taste of all of these things sometime towards lunchtime. That was part of the plan for the day.

So there I was on a Tuesday morning, thinking of where to go and what to do for the whole day. The day before I’ve heard someone say that there’s a market day in Inezgane, and I wanted to go there anyway to catch a bus to Tiznit, hoping that everything would work out just the way I wanted.

 

I knew that I had to go to the taxi station and take a grand taxi to Inezgane. So I walked towards those taxis situated fifteen minutes away on foot from my hotel. The rundown buildings, mess everywhere contrasting with some luxurious establishments have given me a creepy uncomfortably familiar feeling. More donkeys, more carts, scooters from the pre-war period, markets, shouting, smell, stench…and finally taxis. The station is basically a square with loads of old Mercedes cars parked everywhere. These are the Grand Taxis. Now if I’m right then all Grand Taxis have different colours, this is how you can tell which one is from where. And the ones in Agadir are blue, I think. It took me an instant to find one departing to Inezgane. That’s because it is a frequent destination. So I jumped in the back of the car. Then to my surprise three other guys jumped in too at the back, and two in front next to the driver. It is definitely not illegal to drive six people plus the taxi driver in a Mercedes which is almost falling apart. So other than gasping for air and seeing streams of sweat dropping off my forehead I think my journey to Inezgane has been swift, smooth…over.:) I got to the city centre and got out from the car right next to the market. Well I didn’t really see where it began and where it ended, because there were stalls everywhere, people selling practically anything. That was a good opportunity for me to start taking photos, but I’ve done it with a lot of caution, because I knew I would get into trouble if I would take close ups.

 

Tags: morocco

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