0106 Remembering my Year in Ben Sergao (Mor 017—revisit)

Ben Sargaou Travel Blog

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After Dcheira I continue on the Inezgane-Agadir highway to Ben Sergao. Here, memories flood back that are so vivid that it seems like they happened yesterday.  I realize that although times have changed and Ben Sergao is technically no longer a “town”, as it has now been officially absorbed as part of Agadir, I have to “count” it.  As this is where I lived during one of the most important phases of my development.

 So first I’m going to go back 11 years to bring some of those memories back to life.

 February 1997, My Passage to Adulthood

 When I first arrived in Morocco I stayed with some people I knew—so I was still in a relatively sheltered environment.

Ben Sergao is in my 2nd music video
  Then, when they travelled out of the country for a few months, I house-sat for them.  But when they returned, and I realized I still wanted to stay in Morocco for a good while I knew it was time for me to find a place of my own.  I was excited—as I the age of 23 I still hadn’t even had a place of my own… so this would be my “Passage to Adulthood” in a way.

 I had had a tough time finding a source of income in Morocco, so my budget was really tight—even for Moroccan standards! So I thought I might want to look for something outside of Agadir, which is a bit more pricey.  Also I wanted to live somewhere with a more authentic, ancient feel to it than the recently rebuilt Agadir.  I tried finding a place in Inezgane, but the place felt just a little bit too dodgy for me… So I decided to check out Ben Sergao.

I showed up after dark, and the streets were bustling with activity.  The main vein that runs through the Old Medina was packed with people shopping, heading to the mosque or just strolling about… I figured I’d try the simplest way of finding a place—just ask someone on the street if he knows of a place for rent.  So I saw an honest looking fellow and soon we were on our way… 

The first room we looked at was pretty dingy and run down… the second was love at first sight… Right at the end of a narrow alley with a window that from which I could peer out and soak in the Old Medina vibe at any time of the day… A little common space around the faucet where I’d have plenty of contact with the neighbors renting the other rooms and a sunny rooftop to dry clothes… Now I was really going to experience Morocco…

My Year in Ben Sergao

And so my life in Ben Sergao began.  I bought a little camping gas tank for cooking… The landlord left me a sponge mattress to use as a bed/couch… The upstairs neighbour lent me a little table… It was my dream bachelor pad…

And so for the next year, Ben Sergao was my “home base” for going out and exploring the region… I made friends with the locals… my chronically unemployed upstairs neighbour—a bit of a leech, but he was a decent neighbour and allowed me the chance to observe Moroccan family life… The there was Abdellah, a college student and also a very strict Muslim who invited me over several times and allowed me a glimpse into another Moroccan “subculture”….

It was sort of a “crossroad” year in my life.  I was alone and I had a lot of spare time and was immersed in a world completely different from the one I had grown up in.  It was during this time that I started writing music as a way of expressing all the thoughts going through my head.  One day I decided I needed to do something with that music, so I picked up my guitar and headed down to the beach to play music there in the plaza. That was my first experiment with “Parkbenching”…

The Ben Sergao medina—obviously not as cool as some of the better known Moroccan medinas, did have its charm, with its twisted alleyways that seemed especially designed to get you lost…Twice wandering through the medina, thinking I was going in a straight line, I found myself right back where I had started…

And as evening set in, Main Street would turn into an anthill of activity… always a fun strip to wander up and down and soak in the vibe…

I loved my life in Ben Sergao, and I felt I could live there a long, long time.  But alas, it was not to be… In April of 1998 my life took on a different direction and I bid farewell to a beautiful chapter in my life…

Back to the Present

So here I am, back again, remembering what it was like to be a 23 year old “kid” living completely on my own for the first time in my life, sitting in my dingy little room hearing the cacophony of sounds (and occasionally rocks!) coming in through my window.  Now, 11 years later and road-hardened it’s hard to recapture the magic of that time.  But I’m still going to try.

The little park in the middle of the highway, which used to be little more that rocks and track under a cluster of trees, has now actually been fixed up kind of nice.  Here I play my five songs, remembering when that it was here in Ben Sergao where I first came up with the idea of just taking my songs out to a public place and playing music.

Then I follow the Main Street into Ben Sergao’s quasi “Old Medina” which becomes a sea of people at this hour… down past the main mosque, then on up through the little market where I used to buy my bread and vegetables… I continue one up the confusing alleys which I still remember my way through, on to the west end of town which used to open up to a vast open area strewn with plastic bags and clusters of shanties.  Now it’s all an upscale development which will eventually join Ben Sergao to Agadir, most likely killing the magical uniqueness of this little town. Off to my left I see the big blue sign of “Margane” Morocco’s version of an all in one Walmart shopping experience.  Signaling the possible demise of the traditional Moroccan shopping experience where you go to the market and buy 10 items from 10 different vendors! It’s a bittersweet realization to know that, even if I were to move back here, Ben Sergao will no never again be what it was back in 1997. 

I was a witness to the Final Days of a traditional Moroccan town, which will soon be gone forever.

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Ben Sergao is in my 2nd music video
Ben Sargaou
photo by: nathanphil