Until a few weeks ago, ‘Agadir’ meant to me ‘just’ that awful 1960 earthquake which killed some 12,000 to 15,000 people. Other than that it was on the coast somewhere in North Africa, I couldn’t have told you its location. Now I know it is to the southern end of the UN-recognised part of Morocco, which itself is on the left-hand – as you’re looking at it – ‘shoulder’ of the continent. (I mention the UN because Morocco itself lays claim to the next country south, known to the rest of the world as Western Sahara.)
The improvement in my geography has come about because three days ago I returned from a very enjoyable week’s holiday in that Maghreb country, organised by Wildlife Travel for BBC Wildlife readers, and we stayed in a beautiful ecolodge half an hour’s drive from Agadir airport. We got back just in time. Last night, Monday 16th March, at midnight, the Moroccan government banned travel to and from the UK, having done the same to 25 other countries the day before we left.
It was a nearly four-hour afternoon flight from Gatwick to Agadir. With a window seat I had splendid views of:
It was late by the time we arrived at our ecolodge, but a welcoming meal awaited us.
Breakfast was always at 8.00, and we were out at 9.00. Here we are on the Sunday morning, 8th March, at our introductory briefing from Philip Precey, from Wildlife Travel, as big James Lowen, BBC Wildlife contributor, looks on reflectfully. Apart from these two leaders, there were ten of us, plus Mohamed, our excellent driver and sometimes guide.
Outside, Philip introduced us to the Argan tree, a staple of Moroccan life, and providing employment for women in co-operatives, as they make argan oil, and products for cooking and beauty from it.
Here are the inner gates, with the name of the ecolodge written in Arabic:
and Berber, the language and tribe most widespread in Morocco.
We started walking down to the main gates.
We set off for a local walk, looking back at our kasbah.
We approached the sound of many sheep and goats, anticipating a delightful rural scene. We were very disappointed.