Souk it up | 

Agadir will leave you wanting Mor’ with its beautiful scenery and bustling markets

For a truly memorable escape, Morocco promises a warm welcome with sumptuous food and lots of adventures to be had
Agadir Marina

Agadir Marina

Agadir, Morocco

Agadir, Morocco

Edel in Morocco

Edel in Morocco

Edel HughesSunday World

Ever since reading the book The Time in Between, I had always wanted to visit Morocco. Set during the Spanish Civil War, it’s a romantic tale of a young Spanish seamstress who makes a new life in Morocco.

While I had heard lots about Marrakech, I knew nothing about Agadir. Upon Googling, one of the first things I learned was the tragic earthquake in 1960.

The quake happened late at night, killing up to 15,000 people, injuring 12,000 and leaving up to 35,000 homeless. Our Sunway guide Laila told us how her mother escaped death by staying at an uncle’s house after finishing her Ramadan fast. However, her parents and sister were tragically killed. The entire city was destroyed, including the old kasbah or fortress.

During our trip we visited the kasbah and although we couldn’t go inside the site, some locals were offering camel rides nearby for approximately 200 dirhams. Riding a camel feels quite precarious as they stand up back legs first, pitching the rider forward, and it’s higher up than it looks!

Camel rides

Camel rides

Agadir is on Atlantic Ocean coast at the foot of the imposing Atlas Mountains. At night, illuminated Arabic words which read “God, Country, King” on the old kasbah hill can be seen by from the city.

Despite its tragic past, Agadir is a city on the rise and is now the largest coastal resort in Morocco.

There is a lot of construction ongoing currently as part of the 2024 plan that aims to see Agadir become a major economic centre and the wider Sous-Massa region regenerated. Green spaces are a key part of the plan as well as improving public transport, with a railway line between Agadir and Marrakech being proposed.

Morocco enjoys 300 days of sunshine and has 3,500km of beaches. May is quite warm, with temperatures in the mid to high 20s while we were visiting. Mornings and evenings are cooler, and the coastal breezes in Agadir make the heat more tolerable.

Flying from Dublin, it takes just three hours and forty minutes and handily, Morocco is in the same time zone as Ireland.

From the moment we touched down, we enjoyed a warm welcome, being whisked into an airport side room for delicious mint tea and traditional biscuits.

Then we travelled an hour by minibus to our first hotel, the stunning five-star Riu Tikida in Taghazout. We were kept entertained along the way by Laila, who shared amusing anecdotes and facts about Agadir, her own life there and answered all our questions.

After checking in to the sumptuous rooms and having a much-needed shower, we gathered for a drink and some golden hour photos by the pool. The bar was well stocked with lots of cocktails on offer and cosy seats.

Poolside views

Poolside views

Pescatarians are spoiled for choice in Agadir, with lots of fish and seafood available. For our first dinner at the Pure Passion restaurant overlooking the marina, I had John Dory for the main followed by an exquisite tiramisu with white wine to wash it down. However, it was a rather prolonged meal as the service was slow.

While, I had expected falafel, hummus and tagine dishes, the restaurants we visited served more European fare. At La Scala, I dined on monkfish in saffron but in Le Tapis Rouge by Little Norway which served French cuisine, I opted for beef strips in a tasty mushroom sauce.

On our second day, we checked out early for an excursion to Paradise Valley, taking some dirham from the ATM which mercifully didn’t charge for the withdrawals.

One important thing to note is Moroccan dirham is a closed currency meaning you can only obtain it in Morocco. Ten dirhams is roughly equivalent to €1.

Agadir aerial panoramic view from the Agadir Kasbah (Agadir Fortress) in Morocco

Agadir aerial panoramic view from the Agadir Kasbah (Agadir Fortress) in Morocco© Getty Images/iStockphoto

We were delighted to have the cash when we stopped at a botanical garden run by Berber women on our way to Paradise Valley. After a stroll in the garden, we learned all about argan oil extraction, which is laborious to say the least. It takes 60 years for an argan tree to produce fruit. After drying it, the outer shell is removed by hand and can be used as kindling while the inner shell can be used to feed animals once cracked open by hand. Finally, the kernel is ground into a paste and can be cold pressed by machine for cosmetics or hand pressed to be made into oils or a paste known as Amlu.

Amlu is called the Nutella of the Berbers, and we got to sample some on flatbread, as well as delicious orange blossom honey and argan oil. Accompanied by piping hot mint tea, it’s the traditional Berber breakfast.

Afterwards, we got to sample some Moroccan beauty products, including scented argan oils such as gardenia and jasmine. Our cash went quickly at their little shop as we loaded up on spices and cosmetics.

Berbers are indigenous Moroccans and are known for their trading skills. While most speak Moroccan Arabic and French, they also have several indigenous languages. However, in the hotels, restaurants and souks, most people speak some English.

Edel in Morocco

Edel in Morocco

As we proceeded higher into the Atlas Mountains, I noticed the road signs displayed curious Greek-like characters I hadn’t seen elsewhere. Our guide Mustapha, who is Berber, explained these were Berber words.

Our minibus meandered through the rugged mountains before stopping to allow us out for a walk through Paradise Valley. It felt like we were on top of the world as we gazed down below.

For lunch, I was excited to try a traditional tagine dish at the nearby Hotel Tifrit. The stew-like tagine didn’t disappoint nor the enormous salad we had for a starter.

After lunch, we checked into the adults only Riu Tikida Beach hotel and I was delighted to have a room with a sea view. A dip in the pool was blissful after the heat and dust of the day.

A room at Agadir’s Riu Tikida Beach Hotel

A room at Agadir’s Riu Tikida Beach Hotel

Our final day was spent at the souk, shopping till we dropped. The souk is full of all kinds of treasures, genuine leather bags, pouffes, shoes and slippers, replica designer items, tagine dishes, mounds of fresh fruit and vegetables as far as the eye could see, spices and souvenirs.

Here our guides Laila and Mustapha were invaluable as they advised on the best stalls to visit for various items and helped us negotiate and haggle. While haggling is part of the experience, it’s important not to rip off the sellers either. One seller did enquire about my marital status – but I left only with shoes and not a husband!

Souk

Souk

Tipping at hotels, restaurants, etc. is also encouraged as Agadir is hugely dependent on tourism.

After shopping and lunch at the hotel, we were treated to a relaxing full body massage at the Argan Palace salon – the perfect way to wind down after a busy day.

Although we had a very early start to make the 6.30am flight home, I returned home well rested, well fed, and with a serious craving for mint tea...

TRAVEL FACTFILE

AGADIR, MOROCCO See sunway.ie

■ Edel was a guest of Sunway Travel, who specialise in great value tailored holidays. ■ Morocco is one of Sunway’s most popular destinations with week-long trips to the 3-star Argana Hotel B&B from €265pp; 4-star Kenze Europa Hotel B&B from €409pp; 5-star Riu Tikida Palace Hotel Taghazout all-inclusive from €839. Flights and rep included.


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