Friday, October 17, 2008

Morocco: Agadir - the final frontier

As I enter the outskirts of the City of Agadir I'm not prepared for what I encounter. The country roads have given way to city networks. Road signs indicate where the city centre is and as I work my way along the road the traffic volume has increased with cars, trucks, buses and mopeds zooming by. I'm very uncertain as to where I am and I continue on this road. I'm very aware that this is obviously one of many arterial roads that leads into and past the city. Up ahead I see a fellow cyclist on the road and I speed up so as to get directions from him to the city centre. We exchange greetings as its good to see a fellow cyclist on the road. Mohamed introduces himself in fairly good English and insists he will accompany me into the city. We proceed and during our journey he enquires whether I would accompany him home to have some mint tea. I discover that apart from being an ardent cyclist he also enjoys running, swimming and hiking. I tell him about my journey and he is quite amazed by my achievement.

He extends his hospitality and insists I should take a shower after such a long trip and he would be honoured if I could stay for lunch as his family would be home pretty soon. He is preparing lamb tangine and looks very handy in the kitchen.

I get to meet his entire family as they arrive from school. Malika(mom) Younes, Issam and Nabil. We sit down and all have lunch together. The boys are very curious. After 14h00 the boys leave for the second part of the school day and will only be back home after18h00. Kids have long school hours in Morocco.

After the activity has died down I enquire from Mohamed when would it be convenient for him to show me some direction into the city. He looks at me and says: "Whats your hurry relax you will be staying the night". I'm caught off guard and do not for one minute expect this overwhelming gesture of hospitality. The Kouzkouz family "adopts" me. I now live in the suburb of Salem about 15 to 20 minutes away from the city centre. The most amazing thing about the suburbs in Agadir is that it is self-contained. Its has all the requirements a suburb needs and people very seldom see the need to head off to the city except for work. The University of Agadir is also quite central and has campuses all over the city.

The beaches are beautiful and stretches for as far as the eye can see. It is only touristy in the centre and in the peek of summer when there are regular flight to Agadir from Europe.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Morocco: Taroudannt Day 2

The city is surrounded by a massive red clay brick wall which was typical of the Berber towns' fortification against invasion. The only access into this city is through five huge entrance ways with a maze of roads and alleyways snaking through this town with markets in the south souks close to the town square and a tannery in the west of the town and in the the north the Kasbah.

Its the only city thus far I have encountered where bicycles are a common site. People crisscrossing the city on bicycle going to work and students going to schools.

The hotel whereI stay, Hotel Taroudant, is one of a few hotels dotted around the square with good prices. Unfortunately good fairly cheap accommodation comes with its own unique situations . My Hotel is extremely noisy and residents are not protected by the noise emanating from the bar bellow the hotel with its adjoining courtyard.

There is no time restraints of hours of operation that the bar has to adhere to so the drunken noises will continue until early hours of the morning.

Solution: have earplugs if you choose to stay or find another hotel with a quieter surrounding......

Morocco: Taroudannt to Agadir

It's before 5h00 in the morning and already the noise level has picked up. By the time iI leave my hotel the square is filled with people, mainly women. I discover that farmers looking for crop pickers collect their labour on the square . One more stop at the corner store to pick up some bread before I head out of the the city. I exit through the Bab Taghourt gate and head out of the walled city of Taroudannt for my final destination of Agadir.

As I head to Agadir 85km away, the main activity is olive farming and the manufacture of olive oil and Argon oil. I stop along the way to watch the process of olives being crushed by huge rollers and compressed to see the oil extraction. My presence alerts the owner of this very road side plant to invite me in and see more closely what is happening. Not a single soul in this establishment speaks a word of English, however, I get invited to sit down have some mint tea accompanied by a soft bread and fresh olive oil. The custom being that your host breaks bread and hands it to you and we proceed to eat and share a small meal. This is not my first encounter with Moroccan hospitality. Sharing of food does not require a language but more of an understanding of what it represents.
They are also curious about me and I explain that I am from South Africa (Afrik Du Sud) and they lighten up with sheer delight and one blurts out football Mondial and I say yes......
After handshakes and Shoukrans they bid me well on my journey and I'm back on the road again.
For the next 30km the Argans have taken grip of the dry landscape. I also encounter a strange site along the way goats .....goats in the Argan trees - a very very strange site. I did read about this on my search for information about Argan oil manufacturing. Goats also play a good part in the manufacturing process as they chew the hard outer core of the Argon fruit. The hard outer shell contains the argon nut that passes through the goats digestive system and gets excreated. The excrement is collected, broken up and the precious nut retrieved. Sounds like a shitty job. The best argon oil is produced from this.

I make good time on my way to Agadir as the roads are in very good condition into the city.