Bikes leaning by the roadside in Southern Morocco. © Listen to Africa
Where we were? Oh yes, lounging in the bath with a fridge full of cold beer in a breezy apartment in Agadir. Things have changed a bit since then; we’re now in a small town overlooking the sea at the edge of the desert. The electric lights flicker here. Turbaned men sit at their stalls, faces half lit by gas lamps and half obscured by darkness. Goat meat sizzling on charcoal sends drifts of smoke across the streets at night. Hooded and turbaned figures – men and women, northern Arabs and mountain Berbers, blue-turbaned Touaregs and other Sahrawi (desert tribes), the occasional sub-Saharan African or European – exchange long greetings, walk together in the warm evenings or sit under the afternoon shade of a tree and then talk into the night.
We may be a million miles away from Agadir culturally, but geographically, we’re only about three days’ slow cycling away. We weren’t sorry to leave Agadir. Its sad history – the bodies of around 18,000 people were buried under the original city in an earthquake in 1960 – makes its atmosphere slightly eerie: strenuously new (it’s almost a caricature of Morocco’s effort to prove itself modern), and subtly aggressive in a way we haven’t felt anywhere else in Morocco. None of this seems to put off the British hen and stag parties though, and the city’s soul now seems to exist only in its tourist industry.