There is nothing better than waking up in the morning and feeling warm without the need to first put the heater on, to open the Large ‘Heki’ skylights and look up at a cloudless blue sky and let the golden sunshine pour in, this, and this alone, was the only reason why I allowed Shazza to persuade me to come to Morocco !! Our first day, after setting up and doing the domestics was all about ‘chillaxing’, just enjoying some of the sunshine and heat that had been lacking recently. Even in the Northern part of Morocco we had only been experiencing temperatures of between 16-18 degrees, this was no warmer than temperatures currently being enjoyed on the Algarve or in Southern Spain, according to the ‘Work of Fiction’ that is. But back to the warmth of Agadir and whilst ‘chillaxing’ we had several uninvited visitors, first was the man who wanted to know if we wanted ‘Big Momma’ painted with a ‘Arabic Scene’ on the back or the sides of the van, some actually looked quite good, however, a bit like when you purchase ‘tourist tat’ whilst on holiday, once you get home it looks cheap and tacky and you question why you bought it in the first place !! The same applied here but we were not tempted, now if he had said he could have painted me an Indian Chief, wearing full ‘war’ headdress and sat astride a magnificent horse, on top of a canyon looking over the Prairie, then I may have been tempted to have had such a painting on one side of ‘Big Momma’, well after all the van is a ‘Autotrail Comanche’ !! After him came the ‘Gas’ man, no not to read our meter, but to ask if we needed Gas. I explained that we do not use the normal refillable cylinder and showed him the ‘Gaslow’ filler point, “No problem” he said, “You need Gas I can fill it for you“. It did make me think, do I or don’t I but then I thought better of it. Then came the man with his catalogue of ‘Awnings’, ‘Wind Blockers’, External Window Blinds, Leather Upholstery and ‘Sun Covers’ for tyres !! Now, with his last sales pitch, tyre covers, he got my interest, under normal touring we do not tend to stay in one place too long so I had never bothered with them, however, when we are working for the Caravan Club, ‘Big Momma’ is static for months. The ‘UV’ from the sun can and does perish tyres so if he can convince me that these are a decent quality and a ‘Good Price’ then he may have a sale. We agreed that I would look first, but with no guarantee that I would buy and he said that he would return the following day with a full set, in my case that meant six covers !! I had been told by people who have been to Morocco that there is nothing that you cannot get out here, even if you have a problem with a part for the van, although it may not be an ‘approved’ branded part e.g. FIAT, Ford, Renault etc. someone out here can make it and it will do the job, sometimes lasting longer than the ‘approved’ parts. However, the skills of the Moroccans are not just confined to motor vehicles, they can, it would appear, repair almost anything, large or small and their ability to improvise and make things is second to none. This has now led me to believe that ‘Bob the Builder‘ is actually a Moroccan as when he is asked “Can you fix it” his response Ia always “Yes I can !!”. One of our fellow campers, of the French variety, obviously staying here for the duration, wanted an outside sink on their pitch, yes I can just see Campsites in Europe allowing this ! Moroccan White Van man arrived, with stainless steel sink, metal poles, flexible plastic piping and a digging implement. I was sat in my recliner outside ‘Big Momma’ watching all of this, a little bemused but actually a little bit in Awe, this guy knew where to find the water outlet, which he had to dig to get at, I saw him with no plans or indeed any paperwork of any description, he just appeared to know where it would be located. A few hours later, he had installed a pipe from the water outlet, installed a grey waste pipe from the sink to somewhere else under the surface, built a stand for the sink unit, plumbed it all in, tested it and hey presto one outside sink with cold running water, bloody amazing or what !!
The following day, we awoke to the same warm and glorious sunshine as the previous day, however, I had had my ‘chillax’ day and now ‘Shazza’ was having ‘Expedition’ withdrawal symptoms. On the Agenda today was that ‘short’ walk to the large ‘Carrefour’ supermarket. It had been marked on our street plan for us, so we set off with two Rucksacks and shopping bags ‘just in case’ Shazza needed to purchase the ‘odd few items’. On our route we came across a Bank where we could exchange Euro for Dirham so we went inside and converted some more cash, whilst there I asked the Cashier if he could direct us to the ‘Carrefour’, without any fuss, he left his cashier position and took us outside and in perfect English gave us directions. Right, I could just see a bank cashier in an English bank doing that ! However, this is where I started to doubt that word ‘short’, for the directions he was giving us did not sound to me as if it was ‘just around the corner’ sort of distance, more, why aren’t we taking a bus sort of distance !! We walked, and we walked and we were getting hotter and hotter as the sun bore down on us relentlessly. We came to where our map said it should be and where the bank ‘Cashier’ said it would be, but we could not see it !! We could see a sign for a large ‘Moroccan’ Hypermarche so we started to walk around the area, thinking that we may just happen to stumble across the ‘Carrefour’, let’s face it, this was not a small corner shop, this was a large, a very large, supermarket. We failed in our mission, or rather, we gave up, back tracked and went into the ‘Moroccan’ Hypermarche where we (Shazza) made a few purchases to satisfy her withdrawal symptoms with the threat suggestion, that we will try to find the Carrefour on another day !! We spent the rest of the afternoon sunbathing outside the van and waiting for the man to arrive with the wheel covers but he failed to show ! Perhaps the fact that I had wanted to inspect the quality of the goods first had given him second thoughts ?
I won’t keep boring you with the descriptions of the morning, afternoon or early evening sunshine, unless of course it changes for the worse, don’t hold your breath waiting, the latest update shows much of the same well past Christmas Day, so rather than looking forward to the usual Roast Turkey dinner and all the trimmings we are thinking more about what to have on our festive BBQ (Sheeps eyeballs is not one of the options !). There are lots of traders who come to the site, however on this particular site they are not permitted entry and must park up outside the main entrance gates, catching the trade as the Motorhomers come and go. There is a man wo turns up on his ‘Chuck Chuck’, with a refrigerated trailer, he sells fresh fish and will actually fillet it for you, he also sells some lovely large ‘Gambas’ (Prawns), which would make a nice addition to a ‘Seafood Cocktail’ to wet the Apetite before the Christmas BBQ, or indeed, to throw on the ‘Barbie’ as part of the main event. Then there are the local produce sellers, Juicy Raspberries, Strawberries or Mango, Melons, Oranges and Clementines. Just a few minutes walk from the site is the local Cafe and Patisserie where we buy our Baguette or the lovely large round flatbread.
After the previous day’s debacle, we had decided to take the thirty-five minute city tour, no open-topped sightseeing bus here though, no, today we got to ride on the ‘Petite Train’, the little tourist train that runs through the streets, down to the Marina, up past the Mosque, along the line of never decreasing hotels and of course the ‘tourist tat’ shopping areas. At least this way, armed with our street plan, we could get some bearings, just a pity it didn’t go past the ‘Carrefour’ supermarket, we could have hopped off, done our shopping and then caught the train back the next time it passed !! We have soon discovered that mornings are the best time of day to do ‘Expeditions’ as it is warm but bearable. however, by 1pm, the sun is high in the sky and it is pretty hot, we have been lucky enough to have had temperatures up to 25 degrees(c), so far. The afternoons are therefore spent just sunbathing outside the van until the sun sets usually around 5:30pm when it tends to get a bit chilly, however, once it is completely dark it tends to warm up again although we do need to wear a lightweight sweater, I know, you must be thinking how awful it is for us and I can hear the violins playing from here !! On this particular afternoon, before the sun set that is, the man arrived with my tyre covers, I had all but given up on him. I checked out the thickness of them and the stitching on the seams, it was pretty damn good quality so I enquired as to the cost, he told me 100 Dirham each (€9.43 or £7.68), a grand total of 600 Dirham (€56.58 or £46.08), I didn’t have the heart to barter with him, this was cheap in my estimation so I handed over the money.
Agadir is a big sprawling City but a place which really is two-faced. I strongly advise you to make your first stop the ‘Tourist Information Office’, just a five-minute walk from the Campsite entrance, on the road heading towards the Marina, and pick up a free street plan. On one side, in the ‘old part’ you know that you are in a Moroccan city, whilst main streets are well surfaced and there are green areas with Palm trees, many of the side streets leading off are either worn out metalled roads or pot holed mud tracks. We took one of our infamous ‘short cuts’ on the way to the Souk and found ourselves in quite a run down, less than salubrious, poverty-stricken residential area. The streets were awash with litter, the pavements, if you could call them that, were just broken pieces of concrete and we did feel more than a little uncomfortable, however, we were not troubled or approached by anyone, although we could sense many eyes watching us.
All over the city, old and new, the streets are extremely busy with traffic and they enjoy ‘honking’ their horns, driving in amongst it would be a nightmare, I think they all must have had ‘Italian’ driving instructors !! Even as a pedestrian you have to sometimes take your lives in your hands and weave in and out of the traffic. They do have pedestrian crossings, if you can see them, as most of the paintwork is well worn or non-existent. No nice little green man on electronic lamp posts to stop traffic here, just find a gap and run like hell. The sights and sounds though are all around you here, it really is amazing, there is a Central Market, which sells only food produce, however they also have a traditional and very large ‘Souk’, which is basically a market that sells just about everything you are ever likely to need. The aroma from all the spices and herbs gets into your nostrils, wonderful, and the colours on display, from the spices, fruits, carpets, are so vibrant it is a real feast on the eyes. However, the ‘Souk’ experience is the downside as far as Shazza is concerned, for she is a woman who likes to wander and look at leisure, without being interfered with, but here, if you stop then you are bombarded with the vendors who ‘insist’ on showing you everything they have for sale, asking how much you want to buy, how much you will pay, expecting you to barter but most of all, expecting to make a sale, even though you may have told them a dozen times that you are only looking !! Even if you don’t stop, they sometimes follow you, asking where you are from, wanting to shake your hand, “Come into my shop, just look” they say, but we know different, if you succumb to their ploy and step inside then you will have trouble getting out without making a purchase !! So this is Shazzas worst nightmare and I could feel her anxiety rising, although I must say that she didn’t feel unsafe or threatened in any way, she just doesn’t like being hounded, she certainly doesn’t like playing the game of bartering and she just likes to wander. I on the other hand enjoy the atmosphere, the gamesmanship in the bartering, and the banter, however, I really needed to get her out of the chaos before she went into meltdown. Shazza was more concerned that I would start bartering and give a stupid price for something that we didn’t actually want, or need, and that my price would be accepted !! One area of the ‘Souk’ I knew where she could relax was the meat market, here there would be no hassle, no bartering, you just decided which stall you wanted to purchase from, select your goods, tell the vendor the quantity and confirm the price and that was that. Shazza had already ‘perfected’ this art when we were in El Jadida so she was relaxed again, she looked up and down the traders stalls, selected the one she wanted to purchase from and then purchased some Lamb and Chicken before moving on to a bread vendor and purchasing one of their very nice large round flat breads, then we left. Of course the other thing that reminds you of where you are, anywhere in the city, is the repeated ‘calls to prayer’ from the loudspeakers on the Mosque, several times a day, although it is not intrusive and you just get used to hearing it.
The other face of Agadir is the modern ‘Winter Sun’ resort with its very long and wide promenade, I would hazard a guess that it must stretch for somewhere between one and two miles. On the Southern end are the numerous Four and Five star luxury hotels, the promenade dissects them from the beach, however all the hotels have allocated areas on the beach, roped off and supervised, with their neat rows of sun beds and umbrellas, reserved exclusively for the appropriate residents identified by their multi-coloured ‘All Inclusive’ plastic wrist bands. On the Northern end of the Promenade is the very plush Marina and Apartments complex, well manicured as you may imagine, lots of green areas and Palm trees, guards at the front vehicular access. Inside the complex area are a vast amount of Cafes, Restaurants and retail outlets but these are also open to general members of the public as the access to the Apartments themselves are behind gated fences and security access points. The remainder of the promenade, between these two areas, there are small shops, lots of Cafes and Restaurants, most selling alcohol, Beers, Wines and Spirits. As you walk along the promenade there are the usual street vendors selling everything from, kids balloons and toys, sunglasses, African carvings, Arabic paintings and mobile phones. Behind the promenade and the Cafes and the Hotels you will find the numerous shops full of the usual ‘tourist tat’ and of course the mini-markets selling the Beer, Wine and Spirits, not concealed or hidden in any way, just right there on the shelf available for anyone to purchase. I should probably add at this point that it is not just the mini-markets behind the promenade that sell alcohol, it is widely available in most of the general provisions stores in the city !! Yes, Agadir has gone ‘Westernised’, but you get both worlds here, the typical Moroccan experience in the ‘old’ part of the city and also the new modern side, at the beachfront.
Last year, in Portugal, we had a fantastic ‘New Years Eve’ celebration alongside two hundred and fifty of our Portuguese ‘friends’. This year we were wondering what, if any, celebrations would be held here. We soon discovered that the majority of Hotels, and the Promenade restaurants, were catering for both Christmas and the New Year. We started to look at what the restaurants on the promenade had to offer, by way of menu, entertainment and of course the price !! We found a couple that looked reasonable but we were undecided so didn’t commit, and what a good decision that proved to be, what is that saying, ‘Act in haste, repent in leisure’ !! We went out for a walk on Sunday (21st December) and as we returned, via the promenade, we decided to stop and have lunch at a rather nice looking restaurant that we hadn’t seen before, probably because we had never walked the whole length of the Promenade until today. The service was impeccable and our waiter very friendly and attentive, but not overly so. The food was well presented and well cooked. one of the good things about this particular restaurant was that it did not employ those people who stand outside to try to get your custom, this place obviously didn’t need to, it was already busy, and with locals, always a good sign. It was whilst we were eating that I saw a discreet poster advertising a set meal for New Years Eve, with entertainment. I asked our waiter if there were still tables available, which there were, so we reserved one, paid a deposit and now we have something to look forward to on New Years Eve.
When we first arrived here, I had set up the Motorhome WiFi iBoost and scanned for available WiFi. I got lots of signals, unsecured ones as well as secure ones, but even though the iBoost showed that I had a connection I couldn’t get onto the Internet so eventually gave up. We then had to go out and find WiFi whenever we wanted to check our Emails etc. Fortunately, there is a MacDonald’s not far away on the Promenade so we would walk across in the evenings, purchase a ‘McFlurrie‘ ice cream, there’s always a downside (he says his tongue in cheek) but when needs must as they say !! However, we didn’t go every evening and we found that we really missed not having regular access to WiFi in the van. It was Shazza’s mum’s Birthday (Sunday) and understandably Shazza really wanted to ‘SKYPE’ her mum, but it was so crowded and noisy in McDee’s it wasn’t worth the hassle. I decided to try the iBoost again, I put the Receiver on the roof and scanned and re-scanned for absolutely ages. It was frustrating because although I could pick up the signals on the device they kept dropping out !! However, although after an hour of constantly having my head stuck out of the Heki skylight, Shazza told me not to bother anymore, “At least you tried” she said, with a disappointed look on her face. But let it never be said that I give up easily. Finally, I found a signal that held its strength, then I heard those magical “Ping, Ping, Ping” sounds, the ones that tell you that you have incoming Emails, “Eureka” !! The boy only went and did it !! So, Shazza got to Video SKYPE her mum on her Birthday and maybe, just maybe, the van could be a rockin tonight and it won’t be because of any High Winds, if you get my drift…………… !!
So, the big question, “Is it Safe here” ? surely all the stories are true, the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ are queuing up to kidnap us at the earliest opportunity then slit our throats or chop our heads off !! Now I don’t want to try to overstate this but let’s put it this way, we feel safer here than on many of the streets in many towns and cities back in England !!
There are two kinds of beggars over here, the ‘traditional‘ ones and the ‘clever‘ ones. The traditional ones may be sat on the ground with a bowl in front of them and they mumble at you with sorrowful eyes as you pass, hand-held out in the hope of receiving a few Dirham. Others approach you with children in their arms, either in the street, outside shops or even whilst you are sat outside at a Cafe having a coffee or even lunch, again they will mumble at you and hold their hand out. The choice to give a few Dirham is yours, if you do not give they do not shout abuse at you they just wait for the next passer-by or move on to the next table. However it is the clever ones you need to watch for, they can spot a tourist at one hundred metres, perhaps more, well let’s face it we are not hard to spot now are we ? All the Moroccans we have met, in the relatively short time we have been here, are genuinely friendly and extremely helpful, if you need assistance for anything they are only too willing to help, and not expect a penny in return. But on the streets, whilst you are doing your tourist wanderings, you may be approached, generally only by men, who will ask you where you are from, they will smile and shake your hand, note however, they will not shake a woman’s hand or touch them in any way, they risk being accused of assault, a serious crime in these parts. They will ask where you are going, then offer to take you there, or call you a taxi or be your guide, they are not threatening or aggressive in any way, the best defence is to smile and say “No Thank You” as you walk away. Now to be perfectly honest, you may end up having to say this two, perhaps three, times before they realise that they are not getting anywhere. The quickest way to get rid of them is to give them a couple of Dirham, but this could get expensive as the word will get around, especially in a busy tourist town or city. However, if you are genuinely lost then it may be worth the couple of Dirham to have this local, escort you safely to your destination, and safely it will be, they are not out to ‘mug’ you but just to earn an easy couple of dirham. You on the other hand, may consider it daylight robbery, especially when he gets you to your destination and you discover that had you kept going in the direction you were originally headed, you would have got there yourselves anyway !!
Finally, I know that I shouldn’t really say this too loudly or Shazza may hear me, but I think I am warming to this place, well Agadir at least !! However, from what I have seen in the places we have stopped at so far, as well the towns and villages we have passed through on our travels, the rest of Morocco is exactly as I had visualised it, it reminds me of similar countries that I have already spent time living or holidaying in, but I am afraid to tell you, that for me at least it still holds no appeal whatsoever, apart from the lovely sunshine and very warm temperatures that is. The people here are extremely friendly, very helpful and courteous and I cannot fault them, and for what it’s worth, it is extremely safe, so if that aspect is the only thing preventing you from coming, don’t let it !! If you want Desert, Morocco has it, If you want ancient old charm and lots of history, Morocco has it, If you want Modern, Morocco has it, If you want cheap living, Morocco has it and so it really is a wonderful place to visit, at least once. But, I have to say that I also find the Portuguese people just as friendly, helpful and courteous but there are quite a few differences that in my opinion make Portugal (Algarve) a better place, it has nicer Aires with better and cleaner facilities, much more reliable and safer EHU and a big plus for me, lots of service stations that sell GPL !! Oh yes, and sandy beaches were Shazza can get her kit off and sunbathe !!
Would I consider ever coming back to Morocco after this visit ? Well, if I felt that I really needed much warmer winter temperatures than Portugal or Spain had to offer, then yes, but it would only be to “Agardir, dir, dir to have a Winter in the sun…………..”