Canaries Cruise 6: Agadir

I’d been really looking forward to visiting Morocco. Rog had been through it on a motorbike a few years ago, raising funds for the Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust and their Calum’s Road project. So I’d enjoyed vicariously their exploits in Rabat trying to get visas, Marrakech where they felt it was spoilt by being overly touristy, and the stunning scenery passing the Atlas mountains.

The berth in Agadir is in a large industrial port. The information on Cruise News advised passengers to get a taxi into town, as it is a 40 minute walk through not terribly savoury surroundings. Despite this, we passed several couples obviously trying to do just that – as our taxi cost 6 euros it seemed very miserly to adopt such an approach. Maybe people don’t actually read the information readily available to them. I (unsurprisingly) had done my research, and having agreed that getting the wee tourist train around town to get our bearings would be a good first move, asked the taxi driver to take us to “le petit train”. He duly obliged, and we then spent 20 minutes wandering along the very beautiful wide paved promenade by the stunning miles-long beach, before indulging in a little of Rog’s favourite activity of “aimless wandering”. Don’t get me wrong, “aimless wandering” is all very well in the right time and place, but
1. We were in a town unfamiliar to either of us….
2. in Morocco, where we had been warned about being on our guard…
3. in the heat…
4. and since we’d been congratulating each other on reading the info and following the guidance, and pointing and laughing at others who were doing their own thing, I was more than a little aggrieved to have my plans deviated from in this fashion. Harumph.

This was not helped by the badly laid out map provided by the boat, so we did a bit of forward and backing (fending off hashish sellers) until we got back to the Petit Train stop. Two tickets cost the princely sum of 4 euros, which was just as well, as the route it took wasn’t very exciting, covering many of the same picturesque car parks and roundabouts we’d passed on the earlier “aimless wandering”.

We lunched at the little cafe right by the train stop. I was keen to try a chicken tagine (the restaurateur pointed out the menu du jour, 3 courses including a tagine main course option for 6 euro). It was fabulous. The owner tried to take a photo of us together, but couldn’t manage to work my iphone. Rog had a tomato an mozzarella salad. Add in 2 vodkas, half a bottle of wine, and 20 euros included a very generous tip.

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I had gone for my seasoned traveller look: cotton trousers, rolled up to mid calf, cream Tshirt with beaded neck, and cream long sleeved craghoppers shirt, block strip scarf, hat, and crocs.  And cheap sunglasses!.  I was also prepared for any eventuality, with loo roll, hand sanitiser, and a bottle of water in my handbag.

We asked one of the little red taxis to take us to the souk. He was imprecise about price, saying simply “comme tu veux!”. I suggested 5 euro, and that didn’t seem to displease him.
On the way, I was enjoying conversing in French, but perhaps made the mistake of revealing that I was looking for saffron and argan oil, as the taxi driver offered to take us first to somewhere to compare the prices. Rog, who doesn’t speak French, was a little concerned when we arrived at this argan oil shop, and I was unsure as to whether I ought to buy some here, or wait for the souk. Anyway, I bought a small bottle of the cosmetic oil, and I did learn quite a lot about how it is made, and the various uses in both culinary and bodycare.

At the souk, there was a debate with the taxi driver, who said he’d wait for us. We said we didn’t know how long we’d be, and I gave him 10 euro in the hope that would dissuade him, but as we started to explore the souk, it was clear he was following us round, and also tipping the stall holders off with what I was after.

The souk was incredible, I loved seeing the variety of goods for sale, from live turtles, to every kinds of spice and tea, and each stall holder was keen to show you what each thing did, how argan oil feels on your skin, how this plant can be used as a toothpick, how these seeds could be inhaled to relieve a cold….and please come and have some tea.  I was eventually enticed into the store of Jamal, who was eager to show me his guest book, where many satisfied customers had paid testimony to his good value spices and no, he wasn’t going to rip you off.  I bought some powdered saffron for cooking, some mixed tagine spice, some star anise, and he threw in as a souvenir for Monsieur a rock that would stop bleeding, and some of those toothpick plants.

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Now, I know my role as a rich Western tourist.  I know I’m going to be paying way over the odds for items.  Some people get very irate about this, I’m more philosophic.  I have  a good idea what I’m prepared to pay for something – easier in euro than it is in Moroccan dirham or Chinese yuan, granted.  But £5-10 for a Tshirt, say, or the 7 euro that I paid for a pair of leather mocassins in this souk.  I still think I was pretty overcharged for the saffron, but it’ll last me a long time, and I’ll always be able to think back to where I bought it when I use it.

Our pet taxi driver was waiting for us, and I offered him 10 euro to take us back to the boat, but via the old Kasbah, as it reportedly had lovely views.  There were quite  few street traders about in the car park, but at least with our taxi driver acting as minder, we weren’t too badly harried.

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Back on the boat, many passengers hadn’t even got off.  Those who had, complained about the dirt, the hassling by the street vendors, the predatory taxi drivers.  We were in time to catch the ice carving demonstration, and the cocktail making masterclass.

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For the evening, I changed into black sleeveless dress with black open weave/ sparkling stone jumper, black tux and black evening sandals.  We dined in the 7 seas – I had avocado and seafood timbale, asparagus soup, osso buco, and it was baked Alaska night, so all the kitchen staff enjoyed the applause as they paraded around the dining room bearing flaming desserts.  I watched the Moulin Rouge show in the jubilee, which had fabulous costumes, a bit of karaoke in the Fireworks, and managed not to join in, and a nightcap Manhattan in the Royal Observatory before hitting the sack.  Oh, and there was a chocolate fountain going at various points around the ship this evening, which was a decadent treat!

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Cruise tip of the day: Read the information on the ports -perhaps the cruise company ought to provide shuttle buses when the ship is a not very salubrious 40 minute walk away from town, but if they don’t it’ll be worth the taxi fare.

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