Time to look back and compare my trip to Morocco with my family in 2005 and my recent trip to Taghazout to go surfing with friends in early May. The two holidays could not have been any more different.
Family Trip To Agadir, January 2015
In January 2005 I travelled to Morocco with my parents for a one week holiday in Agadir. After one short week, we all vowed we would never again return to the God forsaken country. So strong, in fact, was my dislike for Morocco, that I included it in a list of ‘10 Absolute Worst Places On This Planet To Visit‘. A bit harsh, I know.
So what had me so worked up about Morocco? Honestly, it wasn’t exactly Morocco that the problem but one small Moroccan resort known to be full of tourists and touts. Anyone who has been to Morocco will at this stage know the city which I’m talking about. It could only be Agadir.
My memory of the place was a little fuzzy, considering I last stepped foot in the place more than 10 years ago, but few things I could forget. The fact was, in reality, there was not a lot to do. And should you be brave enough to venture out of your resort alone, as a single, white female, good luck trying to avoid been sold to the highest bidder for about 100 camels and a free souvenir!
Surfing in Taghazout, May 2015
Flash forward to earlier this year, when my friends and I decided to book a surfing holiday. I was pushing for Portugal but as one of my friends had already been there and the others were more keen on Morocco, I was essentially over-ruled. While a little apprehensive, I was in a way looking forward to giving the country a second chance. I was 10 years older, 10 years wiser and had travelled around the world more times than I care to remember in that time. Surely there’s more to Morocco than meet the eye.
Following a few weeks of research, we snagged an incredible deal with a surf school in Taghazout, which included one week of accommodation in their hostel/beach lodge, all our meals and surf lessons each day. The day we arrived, I must admit, was a bit of a downer. Ann-marie was very ill from something she had eaten earlier that day, it was pouring rain, it turned out our small group were pretty much the only people staying in the hostel and it was pouring rain. That’s right, it was raining and even quite cold, in Morocco in May.
One day in, however, and our initial (negative) impressions had vanished. The sun came out, smiles re-appeared and there were incredible waves to be surfed in every direction we looked. It was a bit strange staying in a dry town (Taghazout is totally alcohol free due to its close proximity to a Mosque), but it also made for a nice change. The staff at Surf Taghazout (Said, Sean and Jay) were really friendly and laidback and made us feel right at home. It was great to have our own chill out space and the fact that it was low season meant we had the place to ourselves.
Evenings were short, as it got dark quickly and we were exhausted from a full day our on the water, exposed to suns rays at their fiercest. We were quite content to go to bed at 9 or 10pm, following a few hours reading or playing card games. The sunsets, which we watched from the balcony of the surf school, became more spectacular each evening and we would never leave to go for dinner until the sun had fully set behind the horizon.
Half way through the week we took a break from surfing to do a day trip to Paradise Valley, most definitely the highlight of our trip. I couldn’t believe how stunning the Moroccan countryside was and was taking photos like a mad woman.
Paradise Valley is a section of the Tamraght River valley in the Moroccan High Atlas mountains. It is this incredible palm-lined gorge that would look more at home in the US than in Morocco. As you drive along the gorge, you will see loads of tiny cafes in the river, allowing visitors to sit on a plastic chair in the middle of a shallow stream drinking freshly squeezed orange juice. Again, no alcohol here, not that it is needed!
We spent the afternoon hiking up the valley and swimming in all the beautiful waterfalls and blue lagoons along the way. My friend Skofe befriended some locals at the top pool who were camping out in the wild for a few days. It looked like a pretty spectacular place to camp – I would certainly have loved to join them.
After 6 days in Taghazout, we were sad to leave but we were also excited to explore Marrakech as we had all heard such great things about how magical it was. The bus only took about 3 hours to get from Agadit to Marrakech, and the views out of the bus were enough to keep even the most dull passenger entertained.
I was pretty blown away about how much the scenery can change on a single bus journey. From the Atlantic coast, to the clean, palm-tree lined streets of Agadir, to weaving through the Atlas mountains past clear blue reservoirs only to end up in the hustle and bustle of Marrakech, one of Africa’s most enchanting cities. So enchanting, so magical, so vibrant, that I have decided to save my Marrakech adventure for whole other blog post. Hope you’ll come back to read it. :-)