North Africa


What went wrong

Here's what went wrong (see the first page for details of my cold, illness and so on).

We were originally supposed to stay a few days in Marrakech, then move on for a few days R&R (rest & relaxation) by the coast in Agadir. We were then supposed to fly out of Agadir.

A few weeks before we were supposed to go (it might have been longer) our tour operator told us that BA were no longer flying out of Agadir due to the downturn in air traffic generally, result of 9-11. However, instead of telling us that we could easily travel from Agadir back to Marrakech to take the plane (about 4 hours) they made it very clear that this was A Bad Idea and we should forget Agadir and stay in Marrakech.

This was terrible advice. Apart from Marrakech being extremely warm during the summer anyway, in 2003 it was exceptional even by Moroccan standards.

There were no tourist sights in Marrakech; the few sights were parched and brown during the summer heat. The town came alive only during the night time when the admittedly wonderful central square came alive (if you avoided the snake charmers). But during the day we ran out of things to do.

Eventually our excellent resident holiday rep suggested a trip into the Atlas mountains, and a trip to Essadouria (excuse spelling). For starters, the temperature was about 22 degrees on the coast, in Essadourria, very nice. The village/town itself was geared up for tourists but was not Southend-on-Sea either. It was great. We had a private taxi there (a large Merecedes) with an excellent driver who drove like the wind on the fairly deserted roads but was safe at all times. It only took about 1.5 hours, if my memory serves me correctly (at the time of writing, it is November 2004; you can see how long it's taken me to get round to writing about my holiday from hell).

It was so nice on the coast we booked the same trip for a few days later and repeated the exercise. Wonderful place, I highly recommend that you visit it. And STAY THERE! You can always take a trip into Marakech but you wouldn't want to stay there!

The trip into the Atlas mountains was superb; we got to see real Morocco where they still spoke French and Arabic. Mint tea was served everywhere, of course, and we got to really like it. We even came back with the obligatory silver tea pot for making it at home! Once again the temperature dropped like a stone as you got higher, so you forgot that you were sweaty (you actually stopped sweating) and could enjoy the trip (if you don't mind sheer drops on one side of your vehicle).

My advice is to take the organised trips offered as they do show you so much more of Morocco; and stay on the coast where the temperatures are so much more bearable (in fact, they are extremely pleasant) and keep out of the centre of Morocco except, perhaps, for a day trip.

In conclusion: my trip was severely coloured by the fact that I was unwell at first, with the ill feeling compounded by the infernal heat (the air con in the room was a joke). But Morocco has more to offer than overheated inland cities. You never know, I might go back there one day (and stay on the coast!).

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