Leaving the remote village of Tinouainane was bittersweet. We had bonded with our hosts and enjoyed their hospitality, but after being there for five days, we were ready for a new adventure. Taroudant was our first stop on the way to Agadir, where the Claudio Bravo Palace resides. The Palace was the end all be all. We all agreed we could have stayed there indefinitely; moving in would have been perfect, but since that couldn’t happen, we were looking forward to visiting the cities by the sea.
After leaving Taroudant, it was only an hour or so before we arrived in the destination beach town of Agadir. No more quiet days and quiet nights, Agadir is a bustling city with visitors from all over the globe, and it was about 30 degrees cooler than the 120 degrees we were experiencing in the village. Unlike the village, Agadir is a destination town for vacationing Muslim families. There is a long boardwalk along the beach with hotels, restaurants, and walking vendors mostly from Senegal W. Africa hawking their wares. To our great delight, there was also a pop-up market with choice shops on the boardwalk for some of the days we were there.
It is difficult for me to believe and admit this since I love the sea so well, but the entire time we were in Agadir, I never once went down to the ocean. I looked at it from the boardwalk. At the pool of our hotel, I had witnessed that Muslim women are fully clothed in public from head to ankles even when getting in the pool or the ocean. In this setting, I wouldn’t dare consider putting on a bathing suit, and I didn’t want to go in the water fully clothed. So, I enjoyed the ocean from afar. It was lovely to feel the breeze and to see families, couples, and children from different summer camps happy to be at the beach.
I found it intriguing to see all the many different ways Muslim women can appear in public. In a vacation town like Agadir, there is more tolerance and diversity. While most of the Muslim women in Morocco wear hajibs (head coverings) their style of dress and the degree to which they cover up varies greatly, unlike a traditional village where all women will be covered more or less to the same degree when seen in public.
In Agadir I even saw just a few women with their entire face covered, including a sheer fabric over her eyes and the forehead was also covered, no skin at all was bare. Other Muslim women in Agadir wear western clothes, like skinny jeans, but they would also have on a duster (ankle length, lightweight coat) of some sort that playfully showed what they were wearing beneath the duster; this was especially true of young Muslim women and teenagers. You would see mothers with their teenage or young adult daughters, and the mothers would be more covered up, more in keeping with the traditions while their daughters were pushing the boundaries. Of course, there were westerners wearing shorts, midriffs, plunging neckline and everything else, showing no regard for the culture.
Agadir must have one of the largest medinas in the world. It seemed like four football fields all under one roof. It was my least favorite of the marketplaces. In addition to traditional wares, there were a lot of cheap, plastic western items sold there, but there was also quite a bit of everything else from furniture and appliances to antiques, you name, someone there was selling it. Though the Agadir medina wasn’t my favorite, I found many of my treasures there. It was there that I found the unique and beautiful Hamsas.
Esthetically and energetically speaking my favorite town and medina was Essaouira. It was a three-hour drive along the coast from Agadir. As soon as you arrive in Essaouira, you feel the constant breeze from the ocean. It’s very windy, like Chicago by the sea.
Besides looking in all the many shops, my one of my fondest memories in Essaouira was the open air fish eateries. Each shop is right next to their competing neighbor. They are all hawking for you to see their fresh fish and the seafood they have available. If they don’t have what you want, they will get it from their neighbor. You get to choose what kind of seafood you want and how you want it prepared fried, grilled, or steamed and it’s cooked right there on the spot for you. There were ten of us. We sat at one long table in a space that could only fit the cooking area and one other long table. We each received a beautiful and crisp salad of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions with a vinegarette dressing. Salad never tasted so good. The produce is very refreshing in Morocco, it sings with freshness.
It didn’t take long for all of us to receive our meals, some had ordered a whole fish, others had crabs, there were a few who ordered lobster, and it was quiet as everyone dug in and was focused on eating this delicious fare. The total bill was not much more than $100.00 (fresh food is inexpensive in Morocco). The bill was generously paid for by Jaki’s longtime friend, Ibrahim. Ibrahim is a Moroccan native who lives in Santa Monica but took his holiday at the same time as the sistaWrite Retreat so he could hang with his good friend and her tribe. Such generosity and great hospitality!
The medina in Essaouira looked like what I had always imagined all of Morocco to be, cobblestones alleys with unique shops, antique stores where in some cases you had to hunt for that authentic, handcrafted ware. The medina in Essaouira is where I had the most fun. We were able to sit down in the shops and have tea with the merchants, laugh, and joke. I could see why Pharoah Saunders created a musical selection entitled, “Peace in Essaouira.”
It has tickled me that readers have mentioned in comments about smelling the spices, in these writing about my journies in Morocco because I have not mentioned any spices. I did see spices piled up in pyramid formations in the marketplace, but for some reason, I never felt like I tasted the unique spices of Morocco. Perhaps dishes are watered down for tourist?
On our last night in Agadir, we had a chance to see how the other half lives. We went down to the marina to have dinner at a very fancy restaurant that also featured bespoke boutiques. The food, service, ambiance were all exquisite. The food was quite luscious! I wanted to sail on one of the boats in the harbor, but it was too late for all of that. As we were leaving, we learned that the restaurant provided free shuttle service back to our hotel, equipped with a Mercedes SUV and a driver who looked like Dwayne Johnson, the Rock, so handsome, but so cool and humble. We were all giddy to have this handsome brother as our driver, who seemed delighted to drive us.
I would be remiss if I didn’t state my one disappointment with Morocco. I could not get comfortable with how it smelled, its aroma. I imagined it would be fragrant like the UAE, where Oudh and other exotic botanicals are burned in homes and businesses and linger in the air. That wasn’t the case in Morocco, on the contrary. The village had a natural smell of earth, and of personal garbage burning in the early morning, that I could handle. In Agadir, I experienced the smell of sewage on a daily basis, way too much for my sensitive palate. Don’t get me wrong; you can smell sewage anywhere in modern society. I just had another expectation for Agadir.
I love traveling; there’s so much to learn and such an expansion of one’s heart, mind, and soul. Morocco is vast, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. I am forever grateful to Jaki Shelton Green and sistaWrite for this opportunity to travel to Morocco. I do have the desire to return to Morocco and visit Fes, Chefchaouen (the blue city) and spend at least a few days in the desert.
In the end, though, there’s no place like home. When I arrived home from Morocco, I inhale as I entered my cherished abode and exclaimed out loud for all to hear, “This is how I thought Morocco would smell.” My cats heard me, but they didn’t seem to care. Order your sacred resins from Anu Essentials and have your home smell like you’ve traveled the world. Trust me; these ancient resins will transport you to another place and time.