Lonely Planet recently named Morocco among its “Top Ten Countries to Visit in 2015.” I was able to beat them to it, and experience a small part of this country before 2014 had passed.
There are many reasons why Morocco makes this list. The country has spectacular mountains and deserts, exciting markets, charming cities, and a coastline with beautiful beaches.
To me, Morocco is synonymous with surfing. This country’s coast has perfect conditions for beginners and professionals alike. Beach and point breaks in warm waters offers us northerners a cheap and easy excuse to get out of our thick winter wetsuits.
As a result of increased and cheaper flights, Morocco has become an increasingly popular destination amongst Europeans. For us Norwegians, budget airlines such as Norwegian has direct flights to both Marrakech and Agadir from Oslo.
We arrive at Agadir and travel by taxi to our final destination: A charming little surf village. It is only a short distance away from Agadir, but is more relaxing and also less modern than Agadir. Morocco is a country where you can find big, modern cities, as well as smaller – almost untouched – villages, such as Taghazout. The trip here is a gift to my partner. After having heard all kinds of praise about this place over the last four years, I simply had to see it with my own eyes.
The little town is colored by its tourism: Surfing and backpacking. Its cafés and restaurants serve food and drinks inspired by this, and every store on every corner is both selling and renting surfboards and wetsuits. There are many surf schools and hostels here that offer surf deals and courses to travelers. I often see both Western and Moroccan youths with boards under their arms and wetsuits around their waists. There’s a soothing, laidback atmosphere here that is quite different from what you hear tourists visiting Marrakech or Agadir have experienced.
There’s something special about old traditions meeting modern trends. It is fascinating to watch surfers stroll down the beach next to camels, and how they still make tagine in simple earthenware pots, while the restaurant next door serves double cheeseburgers with fries and milkshake. Taghazout is one of many tourist destinations where old traditions meets the new and modern, but I feel this clash was more present here than any other place I’ve been. The old traditional Muslim culture meets, both with and without resistance, the new Western inspired culture. The young Moroccan guys wear surfshorts and baseball caps, speak good English, and spend their day surfing and working with tourists. They have dogs as pets, and eat burgers at night. They don’t necessarily go to prayer five times a day, even though they call themselves believers. There is a generation gap, and a culture in change – with or without help from tourists.
You won’t notice the same nagging from hawkers and vendors here as in the bigger cities or more popular tourist destinations. A man comes by us with his camel, wondering if we would like a ride in the sunset. Later on, another man asks if we would like to ride his horse along the shore. An elderly man would like to sell us some assorted nuts, but otherwise we’re mostly left alone to enjoy the sun and the beach with other surfers from around the world. I asked the men offering rides if I could photograph them riding in exchange for the nuts I bought earlier. Confused, they wondered why I wanted to photograph them instead of me.
It’s easy to notice that we’re in a Muslim country. Several times a day you hear prayer from a speaker that sounds all over the village. Perhaps the most sensational, and to me most positive, about Moroccan culture is the absence of alcohol and drunk people. It’s quite special to be in a small town with this many young tourists, that is so calm at night. The absence of alcohol keeps places like this from being ruined by drunk youths, something that’s unfortunately not that uncommon for tourist destinations where young people gathers.
I also feel I have to advertise our living arrangements in Taghazout a little. As it were, we lived at a friend of my partner’s, who he’d met four years ago when he last visited Taghazout.
Jamal, a young guy from Morocco started a backpacker hostel a little over a year ago. Since then, he has been host to backpackers and surfers from all over the world. This wonderful and hospitable boy makes the hostel a “home away from home” that it is difficult to leave. The hostel has two big terraces, and the absolute best of it is that one of them is at the rooftop with a splendid view of the town and ocean. It is perfect for morning yoga, watching the waves, eating breakfast, or watching the sunset. It is everything you can ever dream of.
The area surrounding Taghazout is quickly changing. The government has started building large hotels and golf resorts in an area dubbed Taghazout Bay. It may look as if this will become a copy of the tourist city Agadir.
Hopefully, Taghazout village will stay the pearl that it is. It is just dirty enough for backpackers to find it okay, and it is just cheap enough to attract non-professional surfers from around the world to revel in its waves and waters, and it more than charming enough for adventurous travelers like myself to visit and dream of returning soon.
One week passed, and I never traveled outside Taghazout. I had big plans to travel around and at least visit Marrakech, but the beauty of this place blew me away. I simply could not leave.