Date visited: August 2007
Post written by Laura
Another back-in-the-day post as I look back on a holiday taken this very same week but 14 years ago! This was a week long TUI package to the Moroccan seaside resort of Agadir when at the time as a single parent I took my son James and daughter Zoe, then aged 14 and 12 respectively.
Back then I hadn’t done too much in the way of independent travelling so the idea of a package holiday seemed a good one especially for travelling to North Africa, somewhere I was less familiar with than the hotspots of Europe.
Having woken up in the early hours the 3 of us set off to Gatwick Airport braving the drizzle of the M25 which even at 3 am was busy with the resulting spray adding to the miserable conditions. This didn’t deter our spirits and just a few hours later we were on the plane and heading south!
Helped along by a strong tailwind the flight took around 3 hours but to our dismay the weather on arrival was grey and dull and not too different from what we had left behind in England! Our TUI rep was waiting at the airport and showed us to our transfer bus. From here the journey to our hotel took about half an hour and we disembarked before the bus continued it’s trawl around the rest of the hotels.
As it was still only 09:30 local time, we had to wait until midday before being able to check in to our room. During this time I changed some travellers checks into Moroccan dirhams. At the time Morocco had a closed currency meaning I had been unable to bring any dirhams into the country. The other reason for travellers checks was that just before the trip my bank card had been stolen while at an ATM in central London meaning I would be unable to withdraw any cash when in Morocco.
Rather than hanging around waiting Zoe was eager to check out the pool so we decided to find a quiet area of the reception, open her case and get her stuff out. That was the plan. James and Zoe had borrowed a case from their Dad but unfortunately none of us knew the code and we had to go through the painstaking process of starting from 0001 and going through all combinations until the case opened!
Eventually we were able to retrieve Zoe’s swimming gear and we made our way to the pool and the changing rooms. The weather was still overcast but Zoe went for a swim and James and I sat on a couple of sun beds watching.
We went to get our key just after midday but found our room was a double room and not the twin x 3 I had booked. Leaving our cases in the room, we traipsed back to reception to query it. The reception staff were not overly friendly but told us our replacement room wasn’t ready and we would have to wait. This time it was off to the nearby McDonalds for lunch.
By the time we got back to the hotel, our correct room was ready. We made ourselves at home, quickly unpacked and decided to venture out of the hotel to have a look at the beach.
We headed off in what I thought was the direction of the sea and before long we passed a quaint little square with a lovely open air café. However, we then turned the corner into a dodgy looking area, all run down and crammed with scruffy locals who stood staring at us. They didn’t approach us but we kept our heads down and walked briskly through until we found ourselves in more comfortable surroundings.
Eventually we arrived at the huge expanse of golden sand although this was difficult to appreciate as it was crowded and not particularly clean. We were a little disappointed by our first venture into the town and beach of Agadir where so far it seemed a tad tired, neglected and run-down and not the modern and shiny holiday resort I had anticipated.
The reason for my assumption was because tragically Agadir had suffered a major earthquake on 29th February 1960 which had flattened almost all of the historical buildings meaning the city had been re-constructed since then.
We made our way back to the hotel and went back to the pool which was good with plenty of sun beds. Disappointingly the weather had been overcast and even slightly cold all day. How could it be cold??? This was August in North Africa and we had been looking forward to the sunshine!!!
As part of our half board package, we had dinner in the hotel each evening which was excellent and thankfully very Moroccan, with Cous Cous, chicken, vegetables and tonight a delicious beef dish made with prunes!
After dinner we had some time before the evening entertainment began so thought we would pop out to buy a pack of cards. This didn’t happen as we were informed by the somewhat unfriendly reception staff that all of the shops outside would be closed so we hung around for a bit before making our way to the entertainment venue, a large and colourful tent with cushions and traditional Moroccan style seating inside.
We subjected ourselves to the kids mini disco and the tunes of ‘Aga doo do do’, ‘Superman’ and ‘I am the Music Man’. Zoe loved all of that when she was little and would have been up there joining in with the bigger kids but James was never too keen…
Eventually it was the turn of a snake charmer but this was dreadful… A traditionally dressed local with a few drugged snakes playing some music after positioning the snake into its ‘charmed’ position!
None of us were impressed so we went back to the room and went to bed.
The alarm went off at 07:45 and we got up and ventured down for our first breakfast of the holiday. The breakfast was very good, with the usual breakfasty things including freshly cooked pancakes. I thought about how things had moved on a long way since the 1980’s when you were lucky if you got a dry bread roll and some jam! With a bowl of hot chocolate, of course! (Or maybe that was just the type of place I frequented as a teenager starting to explore Europe with my mates…)
After breakfast we made our way to the hotel reception where we were being collected by a bus to take us to the ‘English Pub’ for the Thomson Welcome Meeting. The reps went through their repertoire, trying to sell the excursions. Some of them seemed good but many involved long coach trips which neither James or Zoe were keen on. James wanted to go on the quad bikes but the minimum age limit was 16. Before we got there Zoe had suggested we all pick a trip each so we go on three which I thought was a great idea, but unfortunately we only ended up booking two as the others were not really suitable. I fancied the Marrakesh trip but it was a four hour coach journey away, which is a long way to go there and back in a day. It wasn’t a problem as Marrakesh would wait for another time (as it happened, that was where I spent my 40th birthday the following year).
Anyway – we ended up booking a camel ride and a 4 x 4 tour to the Atlas Mountains.
We went back to the hotel and spent the morning by the pool. I was happy reading my Daniel Goleman book and learning more about emotional intelligence while keeping an eye on James and Zoe who were nearby in the pool.
In the afternoon and having found out a bit more about Agadir from the welcome meeting where we had been informed about a promenade full of shops a bit further down the beach, we decided to go and check that out and keep an eye open for an ice cream parlour.
Again, this was disappointing The promenade was old and tatty and while there were several open air cafes there was nothing resembling an ice cream parlour. We continued towards the harbour at the far end but that had been fenced off. We duly made our way back along the crowded beach and back to the hotel and the pool again.
Dinner in the evening was good again and the hotel entertainment was rubbish again.
Again, the weather was overcast so we decided to take the bat and ball to the beach. On the way we were approached by street vendors which is to be expected as they see us as wealthy tourists however they were not overly pushy or persistent and the avoidance of eye contact did the trick.
Even though it was relatively early, the beach was packed with locals and not a European in sight which was great! We found a spot and, to the thumping sounds of African drums emanating from a large group nearby, we played bat and ball each taking it in turn. We managed to do this without too many beach vendors approaching us.
During the afternoon we were collected from the hotel in something resembling a straw box on wheels. It was meant to be a mini bus, but had no seats, only wooden benching covered with cane. There were no seatbelts either but thankfully it wasn’t far to the camel place. We stopped at another hotel and picked up some more people, including an English woman with her teenage daughter.
We went to the far end of the resort to the camel place where we were allocated to our camels. James and Zoe sat on one camel, and I sat on one behind them. The mother and daughter sat on the front one, and one by one the camels all got up, nearly throwing us off as they did so.
We were lead out of the camel place and along a dirt track. We continued for what seemed like ages, bumping about on the hard seat on top of the camel and with nothing much to look at.
We ended up going into a nature reserve, disembarked from the camels and were shown some flamingos. Luckily my camera had a x14 zoom, otherwise it would be difficult to see that the little specks in the distance were actually flamingos!
After about 10 minutes we got back on the camels and began the return journey. This time, James had a camel to himself and I shared a camel with Zoe, sitting behind her. Although the seat was marginally more comfortable, this didn’t make up for the continual stretch around Zoe as I tried to hold on, tried not to bang heads with Zoe and tried not to fall off!
Returning to the camel base came as something of a huge relief!
We were offered some mint tea and biscuits but politely declined as the biscuits arrived infested with flies which seemed to be stuck and half embedded in the sticky sugary topping! Fortunately we soon boarded the shack with wheels and we were driven back to the hotel.
After a welcome shower, we later had dinner and were intrigued to find ‘wolf’ on the menu! James decided to try some but it turned out to be wolf fish and thankfully not the large wild canine variety.
We had another drink at bar and then… nooooo…. the sounds of Agadoo started up in the background so we gave the entertainment a miss and went to bed early.
Having woken up to another grey morning we spent most of it at the pool until at last a glimmer of sun started to break through! By lunchtime the clouds had fully dispersed and we were treated to powder blue cloudless skies. This we felt would be a good time to take a taxi to the Kasbah perched on the cliff and overlooking Agadir.
Fortunately, as we walked out of the hotel, a taxi just happened to pull up. Agadir has small orange metered taxis holding a maximum of 3 people which was perfect for us. We set off and the driver took us the short drive up the winding road to the Kasbah.
The Kasbah offered splendid views of Agadir and it was the only building not destroyed during the devastating 1960 earthquake. Built in 1541 the Kasbar was later restored in the 1740s and at one time around 300 people resided there.
I had arranged with the taxi driver to wait for us, negotiating a price of just 80 dirhams which was the cost of the journey from the hotel to the Kasbar, his waiting time and journey back down again all for around a fiver. The driver waited for us and when we were ready he took us down to the marina.
We found the marina would be shut until September, so we began to walk back towards the hotel stopping off in a café. As we relaxed in a cafe consuming a delicious strawberry milkshake each I contemplated that the appearance of the sun gave the promenade a new and almost vibrant perspective! It was really pleasant strolling back to the hotel in the sun, instead of the dull, grey atmosphere that we had become used to.
Later and back in the hotel we had dinner which was excellent again although some may find the menu a little repetitive. Following dinner tonight we made our way to the entertainment area and watched a belly dancer. She was OK but not brilliant.
Day 5 – a trip to the Atlas Mountains!
The alarm went off at 06:00 and following a quick breakfast we waited eagerly in the hotel reception. A Toyota Land Cruiser turned up just after 07:00 and we joined the two couples already in there who were all aged around 30 and very friendly and chatty. We drove a short distance through Agadir to meet up with the rest of the 4 x 4’s before setting off in convoy towards the Atlas mountains. Before long we were driving up winding mountain roads and through spectacular scenery.
With several photo stops en-route, after a couple of hours we stopped in a tiny village. Immediately, several small local children appeared, with dirty and torn clothes and watched as us tourists obediently followed one of the drivers through a narrow pathway, round some buildings, past a woman washing her clothes in a stream and into a large Moroccan style room.
We sat on the low seating round the edge of the room nestled among the cushions with low tables in front of us. The tables contained four bowls and we were soon given some lovely warm freshly baked Moroccan bread in which to dip in the contents of the bowls. One was honey, one was olive oil, one contained another type of oil and the fourth one was a local speciality which had a slight nutty taste and was supposed to be a substitute for Viagara! Oh err…
After breakfast, we trouped back to the 4 x 4’s and set off again. We drove round the mountains for another couple of hours, stopping several times along the way until we reached the donkeys! We then had to board a donkey which was to take us further to the top of a mountain. There were not enough donkeys to go round, and James said he didn’t mind walking. I was happy to walk too, but was asked to sit on the back of Zoe’s poor donkey. Fortunately he was quite big.
It became quite hot as we traipsed up the mountain on the unfortunate donkeys. The scenery was amazing but I wasn’t happy about the donkey situation and being much better informed and more conscious of animal suffering I now avoid any activity which involves animals. We reached the top about 25 minutes later where the 4 x 4’s were waiting for us.
We were driven for a short distance to a mountain restaurant where we had a delicious traditional berber style lunch. The three of us were shown to a table with three others. Three miserable English students. They hardly spoke but when they did they only spoke between themselves and about themselves as they each tried to out-do each other.
Despite the company we enjoyed a delicious chicken dish cooked in honey and raisins and stayed at the restaurant for nearly 2 hours before driving back to Agadir. We arrived back at the hotel at around 4:00 ish when James and Zoe made a beeline for the pool!
Making the most of the lovely weather we spent most of the day round the pool, then decided to head out of the hotel in search of the ice-cream parlour again. We found a café where we were served ice-cream sundaes but not exactly what we had in mind.
Later in the evening we sat in the bar and played cards before heading to the entertainment tent to watch the Moroccan folklore show.
The last full day of our holiday! After breakfast we had decided to check out Uniprix which the TUI rep had described as an “modern indoor shopping centre”. We consulted the paper map (no Google Maps back then) and found it was only a short distance from the hotel, so decided to walk instead of taking a taxi. Unfortunately most of the Uniprix shops were closed so we had a drink in a cafe and then walked to the beach where we had ice-cream before having a ride on the Noddy train, a little tourist train which trundled around the resort.
The afternoon was spent by the pool and in the evening we participated in a bingo session!
Our room wasn’t the tidiest and this morning we needed to make a start on packing for the journey home. However I had promised Zoe a game of bat and ball so after breakfast we headed off to the pool leaving James in the room reading his book.
The weather was overcast again this morning which made the pool look slightly less inviting. Fortunately the water wasn’t cold so we quickly got in and commenced our game of bat and ball. We had many attempts at a rally and set a goal of 10. We actually made 12 and decided that for our holiday to Brazil the following year, we would begin practicing on day 1!
There was an announcement at the pool that the time was 11:15, which was about 45 minutes later than I had suspected, so we quickly gathered our stuff and hurried back to the room. James had done most of his packing so we had showers and got the rest of the packing done. We were about half an hour late leaving the room, but the Moroccans do not seem to take any notice of times or rules of any kind so we just ambled down to the reception and checked out when we were ready.
We had four hours to kill before being collected for our transfer back to the airport so we decided to have a look in some of the nearby shops for gifts .
We then headed back in the hotel and to the bar where we relaxed with a drink each. We sat around in there for an hour or so before walking across the road to have lunch in the McDonalds opposite.
After lunch we returned to hang around in the hotel reception until 16:30 when the coach arrived to take us back to the airport. We did the usual rounds of a few more hotels and got to airport about 45 minutes later.
There was already a big queue at the check-in desk but fortunately they had quite a few desks open including an additional one for families which meant we were able to check-in fairly quickly.
Before departing we had to change our Moroccan dirhams back to sterling as it is illegal to take any currency out of the country.
In the departure lounge we were immediately confronted by someone dancing around dressed as a tube of smarties! While it seemed a bit weird James and Zoe were pleased to be presented with a box of smarties each!
The Boeing 737 took off on time at 19:30 and about half way through the flight as I sat with my laptop minding my own business and typing up my travel journal I almost got my laptop screen smashed to smithereens as the passenger in front suddenly and without warning decided to fully recline his seat! Luckily I managed to move the screen before the unthinkable happened although this meant I ended up in the most uncomfortable position of trying to type but having to have moved my laptop almost into my stomach in some ridiculously small and confined position just to accommodate him in front… grrrrr… I needed to learn not to be so polite and not to quietly mumble to myself but to learn some skills in assertiveness… the seat reclining situation? Always a difficult one…
Travelling as a family is hugely rewarding as you create memories and spend valuable time together. It is often said the most precious thing you can give your children is time. I felt we spent our time well with a good balance between some cultural activities, most notably the Atlas Mountain trip as well as general chilling around the pool and walking to the beach in search of ice-cream!
In more recent years as James and Zoe have grown up I’ve been fortunate to now have an extended family with two step-daughters (Annabelle and Charlotte). Chris and I have had some more amazing holidays taking the family to places such as Santorini and Croatia.
Looking back on the notes I made 14 years ago has also been an interesting experience… my review of the resort of Agadir may have come across as a little negative. All things being put into perspective I wonder if I may view things differently now? I certainly have big plans for more adventures on the African continent… one day…