Could it be possible that I’m not the world’s clumsiest person after all? Ingrid, one of my walking buddies in the Afella Ighir gorges, and I leave Tafraoute together. Joining us in the private taxi are two Englishmen. One of them is Ian, who works at the British embassy in Rabat, making reports about Morocco and supporting political emancipation projects. They are avid rock climbers, and were having a lot of fun scaling some of the more remote granite and quartz cliff faces of the Anti Atlas; there’re lots of routes here that have never been climbed before.
After dropping off the Englishmen, our taxi takes us to kasbah Tizourgane. The castle itself is nothing particularly exciting, but the beautiful location – on a small terraced hill in the middle of a wide valley – makes this one of Morocco’s most picturesque sights. In the foothills of the Anti Atlas, I see nomadic goatherds for the first time.The sight doesn’t really live up
As we continue our way to Agadir, we visit an agadir. If that doesn’t make sense: the largest of Morocco’s mainly Berber cities was named Agadir after the Berber word for wall or fortress. Throughout the Anti Atlas, villages built fortified communal granaries, also called agadir, to more effectively protect their harvests from attackers and thieves (from Saharan tribes, or just the next village). Each family of the village has one or more storage rooms inside the agadir. A cliff top location, a stone wall and a guard tower, and lots of food inside made these agadir excellent shelters in times of warfare, which explains their role in the resistance of the Anti Atlas Berbers from the French (most
Agadir the city could hardly be more different from agadir the granaries; an earthquake destroyed it in 1960, and most of the city center was rebuilt in a 1960s modernist concrete style. Many find it Morocco’s ugliest city, but I can appreciate the concrete creations; perhaps those long years spent roaming my alma mater’s campus, built in the same era and with the same material, has deformed my sense of architectural beauty? Something that can’t quite please me is Agadir’s status as the sun, sand, sea and package holiday capital of Morocco; it makes for distinctly backpacker-unfriendly hotel prices, so I’m staying in Inezgane, a completely characterless transport hub just outside the city. The only memorable thing about it is the sea of people doing their Friday afternoon prayer in the parking lot and on the side walk and the grass and every other available surface because the local mosque doesn’t have enough room. The reason I came to Agadir is to pick up the replacement Swiss army
My first day in Agadir had been pleasantly cool, with the sun not really strong enough to peek through the fog rolling in from the sea. As I leave my hotel the following morning, the wind has picked up and changed direction; it’s now obviously coming straight from the Sahara. It feels like an oven, with temperatures well above thirty degrees, and the hot wind blowing around masses of dust that form tiny dunes on every object that stands in its way. I buy a Snicker’s bar to eat on the bus; by the time I complete the five minute walk from the little shop to the waiting bus, my Snickers bar has transformed into Snickers soup-in-a-plastic-wrapper. Taking the local bus instead of a taxi turns out to be a big mistake. Instead of having fixed stops, anyone can get on or off at any time and at any place. This has the bus stopping every 200 meters or so, which gets old really, really quickly on the 60 kilometer ride to my destination, Massa. This is the central town of the Souss Massa National Park, Morocco’s most important protected area. It has the estuaries of the Souss and Massa rivers, and several endangered animals such as 95% of the world’s remaining bald ibises. Unfortunately, by the time I get there the afternoon’s almost over,