You may remember that I had been amazed by this completely foreign culture, enjoyed mint tea, watched the cobra charmers in Marrakech, escaped by the skin of my teeth, and enjoyed nothing about Casablanca. I was moving on to some place more hospitable, so……….After finding that Casablanca was not at all like the movie, and experiencing a little seedier side of the city in only a few hours, I returned to the same bus depot in which I had arrived earlier. Having heard that the city of Agadir bordered one of the most highly rated beaches in the world, I decided a bit of fun in the sun might be nice and boarded a bus for a different kind of adventure.
Agadir is along Morocco’s southern Atlantic coast and in the foothills of the Anti-Atlas Mountains. Today it is a resort area known for its golf courses, beautiful beach and seaside promenade lined with cafes, restaurants and bars. In 1972 there were no bars or golf courses, and alcohol consumption was discouraged, at least, for the locals. As well, an earthquake had devastated the city in 1960 necessitating its rebuilding with modern architecture and more easily navigable streets than the usual Moroccan street confusions. As only half the city was levelled by the earthquake there was also a very beautiful walled old city where I could find a nice labyrinth of streets if I so desired.
I arrived by bus in Agadir and soon learned that there was a small village of travellers camped in the sand dunes and trees behind the beach. I joined this little village, purchasing a plastic tube for a home that I strung between two trees, and settled in for the winter. The village comprised of about 30 young travellers who drifted in and out depending upon the weather and inclination of each particular adventurer. I remained in this little community for about two months and enjoyed many beautiful days and nights. The weather was warm and dry throughout and we occupied ourselves playing football or soccer on the beach or just lazing around in the sand and swimming in the warm surf. My fellow travellers were from throughout the world and I made many friends.
I met one young man from Toronto who had lost his passport, all of his money and most of his possessions. Obviously of a much more resilient nature than myself, he seemed lacking any semblance of distress regarding his situation or haste in seeking his return home. He seemed quite content to settle in for the winter. I took pity on him and shared my plastic tube for most of my time on the beach even though his presence severely limited any romantic aspirations I may have contemplated.
The flow of life on our beach was to fend for ourselves in the mornings. We would generally walk down to a local general store and purchase a Charlie Sandwich from Charlie. This consisted of most of a loaf of bread filled with vegetables, a sauce and some kind of meat, all for about $.30. This probably would have sustained us quite well but the night would bring a large group together for dinner that stretched through the evening and sometimes until dawn. Each morning one or two campers would be assigned the task of preparing a meal for the evening and each of us would contribute a dollar or less towards the food and wine. My indigent room-mate was generally excluded from this cost but contributed in some form of labour. Even though alcohol was discouraged among the local residents, it was readily available for foreigners. Consequently, a hearty meal of varying origins, depending upon the nationality of the chef, would be prepared and enjoyed around a roaring fire each evening. We were never bothered by the locals or police except the occasional Moroccan who would join us seeking the alcohol he could not personally purchase or use legally.
In the 70s, and most likely today, Morocco was famous for its hashish, which is a form of marihuana. Many of the coffee shops provided well used hookah pipes for their clientele. If one is visiting Morocco and you’re hauling around a backpack, you will probably be offered hashish several times daily. Many people who visit Morocco consider the easy availability of hashish (or “Kif” as the locals call it) a major reason to visit. While hash is smoked by most of the male population in Morocco, it is illegal. I never saw anyone arrested, however, regardless of how blatant their use.
Life in Agadir revolved around the beach, which is huge and, unlike other parts of the North African Atlantic, reasonably well sheltered from the ocean winds. The city authorities kept it both clean and safe. Sunbathers generally relaxed in peace thanks to conspicuous, but unintimidating, police patrols which minimized the hustlers and hawkers. Even in 1972 the police were ever present to shoo away any bothersome individuals. Little did they know that their interest in us was a futile endeavor as the beach dwellers in our little community had no money and few possessions.
Our encampment was located beside a Club Med. We could look over the fence and see how we might wish to live once our traveling days were behind us. Interestingly we shared the same beach and sun at a fraction of the cost and could even enjoy a view of the topless bathers on the Club side of the fence. I think our arrangement was much better than theirs.
All good things, however, must come to an end and it did so for me in Agadir after about two months. One morning I awoke to rain, and rain, and more rain. I found out why people have tents rather than tubes of plastic. I bequeathed my little tube to my tenant and gathered my meagre belongings, boarding a bus for places further south and, hopefully, much dryer. By the time the clouds had parted, I was in a very little town on the edge of the Sahara Desert called Guelmim or Goulimine, as it is also spelled. It is the largest city in the region and often called the Gateway to the Desert. It is home to a camel market that I visited and enjoyed a few swaying moments on one of those cantankerous beasts. Goulimine was known in the 60s for a certain type of colorful African trade bead that became known as “Goulimine beads”. It seems they were actually manufactured in Europe, primarily in Venice, Italy. I, however, didn’t learn of this until much later and purchased an abundance of these “price less” beads. I am still the proud owner of a few Goulimine beads. Although of little value, they are professed to be antiques that were a form of currency in the 1800s and used for trade in slaves and gold. Goulimine was a major trading center between Europe and Africa during this time and these beads remained in the area, only to be discovered by hippies in the 1960s and 70s. They are fairly rare now.
I stayed a few days but the village was very small and there were few other travellers actually staying in the community. There were the usual hawkers trying to sell all manner of product. In one instance I was confronted with the Moroccan underworld when an older gentleman attempted to sell me the services of a very young girl. She was no older than 10 years of age but was made up and dressed in a manner that was far beyond her years. Her actions were also very provocative and, obviously, experienced. With this in mind I wanted to leave this town and was offered a camel trek across the Sahara for a fairly reasonable price. I thought better of this and later learned that others had done so and were usually taken out into the desert, robbed and left to find their own transportation back. Perhaps Goulimine wasn’t such a nice place and, therefore, I boarded a bus back to Agadir where I found a letter from my parents. They, I guess, were trying to entice me back from my bohemian adventures and invited me to join them in Germany. Since the camp in Agadir was still a little soggy and my funds were severely depleted, I boarded a bus for the long journey back to civilization….at least a European-type civilization. As winter had not completely left Europe, the further I ventured north, the colder it became. Arriving in a frigid Berlin I received another letter informing me my mother had become ill and they would not be meeting me. So there I was in the dead of winter in Berlin with only $50.00 left to my name and a plane ticket home. With little alternative, I boarded a plane for Canada and waved good-bye to a most adventurous winter.