0094 My years in Agadir (Mor 005—revisit)
Agadir Travel Blog› entry 7 of 35 › view all entries
Coming to Agadir brings back a lot of suppressed emotions to the surface: this was my home, off and on from April 1996 to June 2000 and some of the most significant events in my life took place here. Now, before I “re-discover” the city in this new Dream Life, I need to try to sort through those memories and emotions and try to figure what connection those experiences have with the life I’m living right now.
Back in April of 1996
My first memories of Agadir are forever chiseled into my subconscience... Arriving at the bus station at 3 oclock in the morning...hearing the first call to prayer echo through the city at the predawn hours.
Stepping outside to the dusty alleys of Khiam II...heading down to the market past women in traditional Arab, Berber and Saharawi garb... the men in their thick brown robes with pointed hoods... I was immediately bewitched by the enchantment of Morocco.
Ironically, as I'd find out later, most serious explorers of Morocco turn up their nose at Agadir, calling it a beach town with no real culture to it. It's true, Agadir has no old medina to wander through or magnificent Kasbah... and the boardwalk on the beach looks more like the Costa del Sol than a typical Moroccan city... So I can understand why travelers who want more than a suntan and a lazy stroll on the beach might just skip this city.
But my Agadir experience was one of the most intense cultural immersions of my lifetime. I didn't come to Agadir for the beach--I arrived in the rather dodgy and very Moroccan neighborhood of Khiam II, where Berber and Saharawi immigrants from the mountains have moved to in search of jobs and a new life. Here, within a matter of hours I found myself welcomed into a close knit group of friends--mainly university with whom I found I had an immediate connection with. They would be the gatekeepers who would introduce me to the complicated, beautiful and sometimes very disturbing facets of Moroccan culture and thought.
Before Morocco I had lived in Northwest Mexico in a neighborhood of mainly descendants of Yoreme Indians. I'd tried to learn the language and learn about the culture but found it generally extremely difficult to get people to talk honestly about their real feelings, thoughts and beliefs. First of all, in their culture, they avoid at any cost saying anything that might offend. And secondly, they generally don't talk much about their beliefs and ideas--at least not with outsiders. I'd felt like I'd learned a lot and made some inroads into their world, but it had always been a tedious uphill battle.
Now, it felt like a glass of cold water in the desert to be surrounded with people who were totally eager to tell me almost everything about their culture, beliefs and traditions--and also very interested in hearing about my experiences and my views. I later would learn that this is a common trait throughout Morocco--Moroccans are very curious and fascinated by other cultures. I think much of this is due to Morocco's position at the crossroads of three Mega-cultures: Europe, Subsaharan Africa, and the Middle East... They want to learn about and discover everything.
I'd had the misguided idea that folks in this part of the world would hate me for being an American--but instead I felt a much warmer reception than I'd felt in any other part of the world.
And so the days flew by... Every day there was something new to discover... Whether it was an engrossing discussion there by the lightpole with the college students... or a visit to a nearby neighborhood or town... or having the chance to see the inside of a Moroccan home... or getting to know all the different Moroccan subcultures: the working class folks, the hustlers, the well educated, the rich, the poor... It all felt like one never ending adventure.
And so the adventure continued on... What had originally been planned as a 3 month trip, stretched on to 3 years... I rented myself a room in the nearby town of Ben Sergao with a much more "traditional Morocco" feel... But I always kept in touch with those fellows in Khiam who first welcomed me to their country...
Back to the present
So here I am again, wistfully remember my “visit” to Agadir that stretched on and on. It’s now been 8 years since I left this place, and although my life has still been exciting and fulfilling, I miss that feeling of just being able to step out my door on any given morning, go for a walk and know that adventure and discovery was awaiting me.
But now, as I stroll up the memory-rich, quiet boulevards and streets of Agadir, I almost feel sleepy. It’s like this place is too calm and quiet for me now. I’ve gotten used to traveling through place with more hustle and bustle and uncertainty around every corner. My life has gotten so much more complicated that I’m not sure that I could ever go back to that simple, pensive life I enjoyed here back in the nineties, when my “travels” consisted in little more than hikes to nearby suburbs of Inezgane or Tekiouine, and my greatest musical aspiration was to land a gig at one of the beachfront restaurants.
I wander through Talbourjt, where I know the best place to get a heart sandwich, the best egg and tomato omelette, the best fruit and nut juice, and the best chick pea harira soup… I stroll down to the beach to the spot on the boardwalk where I strummed my guitar every day in the summer of 98… up the road to where I landed my first gig… then on up the blind alley where I spent a nervewracking 4 months renting a room in a house where the guy was an alcoholic drug dealer just released from prison… then up past cinema Salaam, the budget theater frequented mainly by glue sniffers, where I’d go to watch a movie and try to connect a little with my American roots…
Then I head up to Khiam II, to see what old friends are still around. Some of them are married and have moved to the nearby towns in search of cheaper accommodation… Some of them have managed to reach their dreams, even travelled abroad… but others have only experienced heartbreak. We reminisce the many evenings we spent together there at the lightpost on the corner, discussing all of life’s greatest questions.
I’ll always be grateful to Agadir and its residents for the crucial role they played in my development. Hopefully I’ll be able to come back here again and again to reconnect and remember.