This week we climbed the steep mountain track to see the oldest agadir or granary in Morocco then started the journey northwards to get to Essaouira in time for Christmas. We stopped off at a campsite near Agadir – the well known mass tourism beach resort – and met a very different kind of traveller to Morocco. They are the ‘snowbirds’ who come here from the colder climates of Northern Europe to sit out the winter and save the pension money otherwise spent on heating bills.
And – much to our delight – we actually saw the famed ‘goat trees’…see pics below.
The Agadir at Amtoudi –
‘Vous-voulez un guide?’ It’s a frequent question in Morocco and we’ve now become adept at the polite but firm refusal. But sometimes it is well worth the dirhams to have someone lead you to the sights.
At Amtoudi, Abdullah led us on a very special tour.
It was to the 12th century agadir on the summit of this rocky peak. It’s a fortified granary where centuries ago Berber tribes would retreat to protect themselves, their livestock and their grain from invading tribes.
Apparently it is the oldest and best preserved agadir in North Africa.
We followed Abdullah up the steep path to the top.
The homemade cement on the roof of the buildings – a modern addition – was sort of Christmassy.
These carved out bee hives were impressive.
And from the top, there was a great view of the vegetable gardens of the village of Amtoudi.
It was a fantastic tour though Abdullah could probably see we were slightly underwhelmed by the grand finale when he took us a short drive away and across a desert track to see these engravings…
We gathered from him that they were really, really old, practically prehistoric….thing is they looked as if they’d been helped along with a recent touch up.
The Blue Rocks at Tafroute:
We had heard about the blue rocks at Tafroute in the Anti-Atlas mountains. They were painted by Belgian artist Jean Verame in 1984. He had the king’s permission for the open air art work which apparently involved many tonnes of paint and the assistance of the local fire brigade.
Our journey to see them took us through mountains of red earth…
…which were polka-dotted with trees.
The terracing was impressive.
Then as we came closer to Tafroute, the landscape was like you’d imagine the landscape of a strange planet – it was filled with enormous boulders. Some appeared to hang perilously over houses.
Did Henry Moore ever come to Morocco?
Finally, we reached the dirt track where some of the rocks were blue.
There was already a camper there ahead of us – two young French travellers, one cooking lunch, the other playing his guitar. It was all very peaceful.
After more than 30 years under the Moroccan sun, the blue paint on the rocks is looking a little faded and the graffiti artists have added their signature touch.
Still it was a relaxing place to sit for a few hours, listening to the distant strains of the guitar-strumming Frenchman, hurling pieces of biscuit in a trail closer and closer to our van…
…to try to win the trust of this poor skinny, stray, suspicious dog hanging around the rocks.
After what felt like a long time in the desert, we finally reached the coast. We had a typical Moroccan breakfast at Legzira Beach – coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, fresh bread with a choice of honey, olive oil, cheese and a runny type of peanut butter. Then came the crepes.
Then we went down the beach to see the one arch standing. And please don’t mock the cautious act of jogging through it lest it fall on my head… the partner archway actually crumbled to a heap of rubble just a few months back, destroying part of the area’s main tourist attractions in one unexpected crash. (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/25/morocco-legzira-beach-rock-archway-collapses?CMP=share_btn_link)
Joining us on the beach were the Berber ladies collecting mussels which they smoked by the roadside and sell to passing travellers.
We were flagged down by a couple of them as we drove closer to the beach. The haggling to buy a bag of mussels for 35 dirhams (about 3.50 euros) was good natured and cheerful – one of them cheekily pulled back the brightly covered veil half covering her face to pop one of the mussels in her mouth to prove they were ready-cooked and edible. But no photos allowed alas.
In Agadir we meet the snowbirds
We’ve met some interesting people on our trip so far. There was the French couple who had been travelling in a campervan around Morocco for a few weeks but were about to move permanently with their two young children to Auraville in India (it sounds like a cult) or the German couple travelling in their self-converted troop carrier truck who were heading to Mauritania or and the young English brother and sister who were over on a short holiday but impressed with their bravado in couch surfing and hitch hiking their way around Morocco.
But this week we met a totally different type of traveller – the snowbirds or pensioners who fly south from Northern Europe and sit out the winter in their camper vans in warmer climes.
Camping Atlantica Parc, close to Agadir, is one of the most popular snowbird destinations. When we stayed for one night on our way to Essaouira, there were nearly 700 vans already there. About 13 of the campers were Brits we were told – the rest were French.
It’s like a little self-contained ex-pat town. The campsite organises entertainment like this flea market in full swing during our stay…
…and even helps the guests get round the 3-month stay limit in Morocco by helping sort the ‘prolongation’ paperwork so the snowbirds can stay the full 6 months on site.
Just about hearing him above the din of Europop music blasting out round the flea market, we spoke to one 76-year old Brit who told us he and his wife have been coming to the campsite for a few years now. ‘We have six months at home in the summer with our children and grandchildren, then come here to sit out the winter, Face Time our children who prefer that we are doing something rather than rotting at home. Why not?”
This week was also eating words time:
On the road we had some sugary snacks to eat – this paper cone of covered peanuts bought from a stall.
But nice and all as it was, we were still hungry. So we pulled up for lunch in Tamanar.
And ordered lunch. The choice was tagine…or tagine…or, em, tagine.
We were serenaded by sound of Irish music…turns out it was a traditional Berber tune…
..but it sounded like something that wouldn’t have been out of place at the traditional Irish music festival we went to this summer. in Feakle, Co. Clare.
And here comes lunch…
…and it was absolutely delicious, the meat (we think goat) falling off the fork it was so tender. Scrap last week’s post, tagine is delicious and could, in fact, be the menu de jour tous les jours bonnet de douche n’est ce pas innit. And most definitely, tastier than next door.
New friends –
On the road from Zagora to Foum Zguid, we stopped just beyond a small village to take some happy snaps of the area. Within minutes, Stuart had made a bunch of new friends.
Then some of them took turns with his camera to take pictures of him with his new mates. Then it switched to selfies with him on their smartphones….he might have gone viral somewhere in the Western Sahara by now.
And I met some lovely women at Amtoudi …their babies are very little, one is 10 months. The shy toddler is two.
Mine…now safely here in Essaouira for Christmas are a little bigger.
And finally, it’s Christmas….
And that means it is time to pay a guardian 210 dirham to watch over the van while it sits alone in a vast car park outside the walls of the medina in Essaouira for the week.
Meanwhile, we will be enjoying a week of the luxury that comes with not having to build your bed every night. We are airbnb-ing it in a riad …so catch up next week inshallah and have a wonderful Christmas all.
Love Helen & Stuart
PS – we saw the famed goat trees!!!
Just outside Essaouira, there were fields of argan trees and where there are argan trees, there are goats because they just love argan tree fruit and leaves.
They really like them…
and will go to any lengths – heights – to eat them.