Morocco oozes friendliness.
On our way to meet a friend’s husband (who is Moroccan and who is on holiday in Agadir for a couple of weeks, but we’ve never met before), we stopped at the side of the road to adjust the driver’s seat in the campervan. A man waving excitedly pulled in in front of us, jumped out of his van and came over to hug and kiss us and say welcome. He thought we were someone else, and we thought he was our friend’s husband. On realising our collective mistake, he continued to welcome us to Agadir like long lost friends.
The last couple of days have been a lot more about the people than the place.
This is the car park at the biggest supermarket in Agadir. It looks like a motor home sales lot. Inside there are very few locals. It could be anywhere. It sells everything. It’s very expensive, but frankly, if you want to eat cornflakes in Morocco you should have to pay for all the miles they’ve travelled.
We are lucky: I work with Nicola who’s married to Younes whose family live in Agadir. Knowing someone in a place allows you to make the temporary but very privileged step over and beyond the tourist boundary. These are the bits we will remember long after our travels are over. Thank you Younes. And thank you Younes’ mum and dad and sisters and neighbours for making us feel so welcome.
Agadir has a population of about 300000. It’s a bustling fish port, and oranges, tomatoes and other products are sent across and up the Atlantic from its docks. An earthquake reduced the city to rubble in 1961 and 12000 people were killed. There were no steel reinforcements in the buildings in those days.
We went for lunch one day with Younes to a seafood restaurant where he used to work. Somewhere we’d never have found on our own, a little local gem. I would say it had the best seafood I’ve ever tasted. Calamari, langoustines, king prawns, sole, flat fish…… all caught that morning. Follow the main road south toward the Marina – before you get there, there’s a row of small open fronted cafés to the right (you can see them from the road) with rough parking in front of them.
We had a wander round the marina: a very cosmopolitan area these days with plenty cafés and restaurants. Jump a couple of streets back to the one above and you won’t be disappointed.
Another day we were invited to Younes’ parents’ house for lunch. Younes’ family, like many others from parts of Agadir were provided with a piece of land by the government on the hill up from town. The families are each building a home, a storey at a time, money permitting, and a new community with schools etc has grown up around it.
The neighbours are close, the kids run in and out of each other’s houses. It feels a little embarrassing to say that in the UK (not everywhere, but in lots of places) neighbours sometimes don’t even know each other’s names let alone spend time with each other. This is the little boy, Nast Addin, from next door who spent the afternoon with us.
He spent most of the time glued to his new buddy Matt and the Rubik’s cube.
We had chicken tagine to start, then cous cous. The dish sits in the middle of the table and everyone shares, direct from the dish. Bread replaces cutlery. Younes explained that the food goes in the middle to ensure everyone feels equal. He finds our custom of ordering our own, and eating from our own plate a bit, well, odd.
There’s a concession with the cous cous. It’s not easy to roll it into a ball on the palm of your hand, especially when it’s hot. A spoon is ok.
Whenever you meet new people, especially where there’s a big difference in cultures, it can feel a little awkward at first. Cue Adam the magician.
We had such a laugh. Magic is universal. As a mum I admit I was a little worried for Adam. There’s a trick where he predicts the animal you will choose, the country you will choose and the card you’ll draw from a pack. Does that work in Arabic, and do you pick the same country or animal if you’re from Europe or Africa? It worked a treat.
Younes’ mum eventually put her veil over her head to try and stop Adam “seeing” inside it. Her neighbour would like Adam to marry her daughter.
After a tour of the house and a reciprocal tour of the campervan it was time to go. But not without a plan to meet up again for an “insider” tour round the souk to point out a good tagine dish.
We were told Agadir souk is the third biggest in Africa. The cafe area to the left of Porte 12 sells great seafood too, and fish tagines. Katie and I shared a 30 dirham, 3 euro, tagine – it was delicious.
There’s a bus which runs along the coast between Taghazoute and Agadir (wild camping at Taghazoute – see previous post) – every hour, 5 dirhams each way. Numbers 31/32.
Younes gave us the recipe for a tagine. We hope soon to be the proud owners of a tagine dish of our own.
We also met Emily and Ryan this week, with their children Oliver and Kendley. An inspiring family, originally from California, and who are also travelling and in love with Morocco. We have a Facebook group called Families on the Move to thank for introducing us. Now coming to the end of their Moroccan 3 month visa, Emily and Ryan are a font of knowledge about where to go, what to see, which roads to avoid. It was actually Kendley, aged 2, who taught me “how much?” in Arabic.
They’ve been working their way down through Europe from Scotland through France, Spain, Portugal, a few months ahead of us. Their blog is excellent, and is an insight into a life travelling, indefinitely, with very young kids. Here’s a link to their blog: http://www.olivertheworld.com
We hope our paths cross again.