01 – 05 MARCH 2016:
Agadir, a city along Morocco’s southern Atlantic coast, in the foothills of the Anti-Atlas Mountains, is the capital of Agadir-Ida Ou Tanane province. It’s a resort area known for its golf courses, wide crescent beach and seaside promenade lined in cafes, restaurants and bars. Rebuilt after a devastating 1960 earthquake, it features modern architecture and an easily navigable street grid.
In celebration of my Sister Jill’s 38th birthday, I decided to book us a little surprise holiday. All I told my sister was that we would be going abroad and she should bring some flip flops! Jill spent weeks trying to guess our mystery destination but I remained tight-lipped. She was also unaware that our Mum would also be joining us so it was a combined birthday and mother’s day treat!
As the holiday approached, Jill started to guess that we would be going to Morocco. I hate people guessing correctly when I am trying to surprise them so I decided to throw her off the scent by editing the boarding pass to say our destination was Copenhagen, Denmark. The weather in Denmark is even colder than England so it was a bit of a mean trick!
On the way to Gatwick airport at 4am in the freezing cold, I gave Jill the fake borading pass and her face dropped instantly. She was not happy….at least not until I gave her the real one! She was very relived to be going to Morocco instead.
After a three and a half hour plane ride, we landed in sunny Agadir. We jumped in to a cab to go to the hotel. The taxis there all seem to be very old and our taxi from the airport actually had to be pushed at first…a funny start to the holiday!
LE TIVOLI HOTEL
I booked for us to stay in a suite at the Tivoli Hotel, located approx. 20 minutes from the airport. The neighbourhood was very nice, surrounded by restaurants, shops and bars, and around 10 minute walk from the beachfront. They have an onsite spa centre and gym too (although I never set foot in a gym when on holiday!)
My review of the hotel is a little mixed…
- Nice neighbourhood – many places to eat, shop and explore nearby
- Massive suite room – and also a nice balcony (but with a not-so-great view)
- Staff were very friendly (minus a couple of the receptionists)
- Great value!
- No Wi-Fi available in the bedrooms, only in the lobby
- The onsite restaurant’s food wasn’t tasty and had very limited choice
- Cleaning standards were poor – our bathroom smelt of urine from the previous stay! Not pleasant!
All in all, we were quite happy with the hotel especially as it was such good value. The hotels on the beachfront looked very nice and I would have preferred to stay there but they would obviously be more expensive.
Our hotel had a deal for a hammam, facial, massage and pedicure for 500 Dirham per person (approx £35) which is pretty good value so we went for it and spreaded the treatments out to one each day, starting with the Hammam.
A Hammam is a steam room, similar to a Turkish bath, where Moroccans habitually go each week to cleanse themselves.
This was a rather strange experience. We were in a large steam room wearing only knickers, being bathed head to toe by a lady. She washed us, exfoliated our skin and put some kind of clay treatment all over our bodies. Afterwards, our skin felt pretty nice and soft so I can see why many Moroccans get this done weekly.
The Moroccan massage treatment we had was pretty similar to a Swedish massage although they do massage your breasts too which was slightly strange – but enjoyable nonetheless!
On our second day we made friends with a taxi driver Bebeto and he gave us a guided tour of Agadir, starting off at the fish port.
This was a very interesting (but smelly) place where local people buy fish directly off the quay. There is an indoor wholesale market as well as indoor fish market and food court, and also a boat construction site.
It is well worth a trip to the Kasbah as it is one of the few real attractions in Agadir. There were some great views from the walls and there is an easy path all the way back into Agadir.
The hill bears the inscription in Arabic: “God, Country, King” which, like the walls, is illuminated at night.
Many locals told us the story of the 1960 Agadir earthquake which occurred on 29 February at 23:40. Between 12,000 and 15,000 people (about a third of the city’s population of the time) were killed and another 12,000 injured with at least 35,000 people left homeless, making it the most destructive and deadliest earthquake in Moroccan history.
Our next stop was an Argan Oil factory/shop where they sell pure Argan Oil products.
Argan Oil is said to have many remarkable benefits for hair and skin (acne, psoriasis, stretch marks to name a few), and it can also be taken with food to lower cholesterol levels. I spent quite a lot of money on various products – although they would be even more expensive in the UK.
Argan oil is plant oil produced from the kernels of the argan tree that is endemic to Morocco.
We then visited La Medina which is a very nice open-air museum built by an Italian born in Morocco. Nice doors, windows, little handicraft shops – you can get an impression of how houses were built in the past. It’s definitely an interesting place to visit but a bit out of the way so make sure you have return travel arranged. There did seem to be some pressure to buy from many of the little shops, however I suspect that is because they get very few visitors and have little opportunity to sell. There is a man with a camel outside so it’s a good chance to have a short ride if you don’t fancy booking a camel riding excursion.
Many people will try to sell you excursions and activities – be careful as often they don’t have a shop or base, so you could pay them and then not be able to find the person again. We asked our new taxi driver friend Bebeto to recommend a place and he arranged it for us.
We got picked up from our hotel by the Quad Biking operator and taken to the mini Sahara desert around 30 minutes away from our hotel. It cost us 300 Dirham per quad bike (around £20) and you can have up to 2 people on each bike. I had my mother holding on to me tightly whilst I tried to steer my way around the desert paths. We were then taken for some tea in a little dark tent before heading back to the hotel. It was a really fun experience that we all enjoyed.
On our last night we visited the casino near our hotel. We only had 600 Dirham and expected to lose it at the roulette table very quickly, although we did pretty well and ended up walking away with 3,000 Dirham. They also had a raffle – although as most people speak French I had no idea what was going on until some of my limited French vocabulary came back to me and I realised that my number had been called. I sent Jill up to the front – I was too shy to be in the spotlight! Jill had to spin a very large wheel (like they used to have on ‘Bruce’s Price is Right’ TV show in the UK) and it landed on 500 Dirham which they then gave to us as our winnings. Every time we tried to leave the casino, we kept winning on the roulette table forcing us to sit back down again. Thankfully we finally left before we started losing it all.
A couple of my favourite restaurants:
We visited this restaurant twice as I loved their seafood spaghetti! They also have live music – the singer is very good and performs a variety of English songs.
On the beach front with great views – On our first night we went for a seafood platter. It cost around £70 for 2 people but it was quite amazing!
- Most restaurants will give you a rose at the end of your meal (I think this only applies to women) – it’s a very nice gesture!
- It’s hard to get Moroccan Dirhams in the UK because it’s a restricted currency, however you can change money at the airport. The airport in Agadir when we arrived had a much better rate than at Gatwick airport. Also it is awkward changing money back so be mindful to not have too much cash at the end of your trip. They only allow 1,000 Dirham per person to be taken out of Morocco – they have some really funny rules.
- A lot of prices in Morocco are listed in Euros to help tourists understand the prices but the actual currency to use there is the Moroccan Dirham.
- The Souk markets are very popular and sell all sorts of products from hardware to food to beauty products.
We all had a great time in Morocco – it was warm in March, the people were friendly, the food was great! Although I have no desire to return to Morocco any time soon as there are so many other places to try but I would definitely be open to the idea of returning in the future.