agadir & the return to square one
Eons ago, back in the year 2000, my mother took me on my first trip to “the south” (which people in Scandinavia call anything south of Paris, more or less). I was 14 at the time, and the furthest I had travelled was Denmark; this time, I took a leap to a whole new continent as we flew from Helsinki to Agadir.
Agadir is a coastal city at the foot of the Atlas mountains in Morocco. It was 36 °C on our first day there, which already was a marvellous experience to me. All in all, the trip was great: I learned lots of things, like the fact that boys seemed to communicate by whistling (maybe they knew I didn’t understand Arabic?); that Moroccan oranges in Morocco are the tastiest thing in the world; that tagine is a local dish that I could eat everyday; that some local people speak Finnish; and that if you’re a European, you can hang out on a part of the beach that locals can’t access. It was a mind-expanding and slightly terrifying experience.
A week ago, I returned – 16 years later. This time, everything was quite different – I’ve been living in Morocco for 3 years, I’ve seen more of the world, and, importantly, the experience wasn’t terrifying at all (and the boys weren’t whistling at me anymore).
The drive from Rabat, where I live, to Agadir, took about twice as long as the flight from Helsinki to Agadir did all those years ago. Driving through the mountains is always, including this time, a double-edged experience for me: it’s both exciting (because I love the mountains and we’re driving through them) and frustrating (because I love the mountains and we’re driving through them).
The magical Moroccan mountains – they never seem to run out of colours in this country!
It wasn’t 36 °C this time, but it wasn’t far from it. The mornings were misty (perfect for a morning run on the sand) but the days always cleared up. The hotel I stayed in had a pool (two, actually), but I’ve always preferred the ocean… I can’t be next to the Atlantic and not dive into it, for some reason. In the end, I swam in both.
They did make the pool look pretty tempting.
Some of the evenings were misty, too – this was the view for a few minutes during sunset! The words on the mountain read god, country and king (yes, in that order).
We happened to be in Agadir during the festival Eid al-Adha, the biggest festivity during the Muslim year. I didn’t notice much of it, to be honest, except that for a day or two, many shops, cafes and restaurants were closed, and on the evening of the first day of the festival the streets filled with people walking, playing and smiling.
Something I’ve noticed during my years in Morocco is that people here absolutely love walking.
So, after 16 years, was Agadir any different? Well, I don’t really know – I can’t say if the city is any different, because I’m such a different person from that shy, unquestioning, inexperienced teenager that visited with their mother at the beginning of the millennium. I know this: tagine is still just as tasty, people still speak all kinds of languages (I spoke Swedish with a restaurant owner! Also, the majority language in the region is Shilha, a Berber language, not Arabic), but I’ve become much less tolerant of the segregating and exploitative aspects of tourism. Which is why I was happy to realize that this time around, Agadir felt much less like a tourist town than it did all those years ago.
Agadir at night; the Ferris wheel in the front, and the huge letters on the mountain in the back.