Travel Tuesday: Taghazout, Morocco

By: Samantha Janosik

Taghazout, Morocco, is a surfing town of the coast of Africa. I can’t surf. I was given the opportunity of a week in Taghazout, Morocco with the objective of learning to surf. I am sorry to say I did not meet my objective and failed the mission entirely. Maybe not entirely. I didn’t really expect to learn to surf and to be honest, I didn’t really expect to like being there. I am a New England girl through and through. I’m not used to constant sun and 80 degree weather (Fahrenheit for you non-patriots). I would prefer to keep up my vampire-skinned status in a place where winter exists, but I ended up in a land of perpetual sun. Even then I found a way to enjoy it. We stayed at the LaPoint Surf Hostel with the St. Andrews surf club. I was in a room of three other girls with a window that looked out onto the one main street and ocean behind it. Some rooms had balconies, but ours didn’t. Every morning, around 6am and a bit earlier, there is a Call to Prayer in Arabic that is heard from just about everywhere, and every night, homeless dogs barked. Closing a window wasn’t an option, unless you wanted to turn the room into a sauna, thus the noises would not cease. Sleeping in wasn’t possible, nor was sleeping at all for that matter. It was quite the experience.

We went to a resort, Paradis Plage, for level 1 surf lessons. All the instructors worked at the resort, other than Spanish Oscar, who was a LaPoint guy. My instructor was a Moroccan young man named Tissali who spoke Arabic, French, and English. Sadly, he was not fluent in New England sarcasm. There was time to explore and lounge before and after lessons most days. One day I got to ride a camel, which was the most terrifying experience of my life. There are men who walk camels and horses up and down the beach for visitors to ride. It costs 20 Dirham/MAD (about £1.42) to ride the camel. There were a bunch of blue boats down the beach a little from the resort. We found fishermen there with their catch. One older man, who was smaller than the other fishermen, held up a large fish, with a beaming grin over his sun worn face to show us what he caught.

On one of the first afternoons a few of us went to a restaurant overlooking the beach in Taghazout. One girl ordered for all of us in French. I usually didn’t say much at all. We had a calamari tagine for the table and mint green tea. We the man brought the food to the table, the tagine came in a cast iron dish with a cone over the top, which the man was slow to take away in order to build suspense. Other tagine pots that we saw being sold were ceramic and black with small colourful dots and lines patterned on it, or plain ceramics in earth tones. The tea came on a platter in a plain silver-coloured metal teapot. There was a large clump of sugar that we plopped into the pot before pouring it into small glasses with white designs painted on the outside, rather than teacups with handles. I’m not food critique and I don’t remember all the details, but that dish was damn good. It came with a basket of bread which we politely fought over to sop up the last bit of spices and oils at the bottom of the pot. I say politely fought over, because the company contained a Brit and a Canadian.

It became a habit of eating out after lunch and before dinner, which strained my purse, though the prices for food were far more than reasonable. I was also swindled a few times, because of my poor haggling skills. I did my best, but it’s difficult to ask for a lower price from a child, which I told was the point. I ended up going home with a teapot, two scarves, a necklace, a woven jacket, and a hooded beach coverup. We also went to a place off the road that produces goods from argan oil. We saw the techniques of how the oil is extracted from the nuts. I bought an argan oil lipstick that looks blue on the stick, but is a fuchsia colour when used. We explored Taghazout a lot, though there wasn’t much to explore, it was beautiful. Even the doors of the houses were wildly detailed and stunning. Kids ran about on skateboards and scooters. A few of the children seemed very young to be out on their own, but they had brothers and sisters around to watch out for them, or pester them, as siblings do. Some of our group had fun trying to talk and play with them, though neither spoke the same language. Locals surfed the beach there. We were told by the level two surfers that the locals hated when travellers were in the way.

We went on two side trips while in Morocco. One to a place called Paradise Valley and another to the open market in Agadir. Paradise Valley is like an oasis hidden in the hills. After the bus stopped we had to walk for 20 minutes up and down rocks and across streams until we found this big pool with cliffs surrounding it. Many people in our group jumped off from stupid heights, but I remained boring on solid ground, dipping my toes in the water a little and hiking a bit around the rocks to another pool with more cliffs that I didn’t jump off of.

Agadir market was very busy and nerve wracking. It is semi enclosed with hundreds of stalls, each of which has a man in it that will go to nearly any length to sell something to the “pretty girl.” Not to mention the hanging meat from the butcher stalls and the severed cow’s head that stared at me, vacantly while I walked past, pretending I didn’t see it. All of this is a tad unsettling, but I have to point out that feeling ill on this day from too much sun over the week biased my opinion. After we got past the very westernised parts that sold knockoff designer purses, there were stalls that sold spices and teas. Other stores had beautiful rugs that we had no way of taking back with us. I bought my teapot at a stall that sold ceramics. The designs were intricate and lovely. I sadly have no pictures from this day because I attempted to use a very old film camera. It turns out that I didn’t load the film correctly and none of my pictures were taken.

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Morocco is a beautiful country to visit. It’s a bit of a culture shock, but in a fun and exciting way. It’s extremely photogenic, even if you don’t know how to work a camera, like me. I’m more than glad I was given the opportunity to visit someplace like this.

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