- Didn’t sleep at all for 24 hours prior to flight. Check
- 3.20am: departed Pax Lodge. Check
- Saw my bus pulling away 30 seconds before I reached the bus stop. Check
- Froze. Check
- Arrived at airport desperately hungry and couldn’t find anything healthy to eat for under £10. Check
- Fell asleep and almost missed my boarding call. Check
- Slept most of the way to Morocco. Happy check!
- Arrived to sunshine and palm trees. Superhappy check!
- Discovered no local buses go to the city from Agadir airport – the internet lied to me! Check
- Was surprised when the van driver actually pulled over to answer and speak on his cellphone. Check
- Checked into my hotel, wandered around town, wondered what the writing on the hill says. Check
- Saw cream-coloured butterflies chasing each other through the city. Check
- Saw horses and carts being used for real transport, not just as a way to make money from tourists. Check
I awake with a sore throat. Using my trusty headtorch (hey, I’m a Girl Guide, I never leave home without it) and the bathroom mirror, I discover the tell-tale white spots of tonsilitis. I look at myself in the mirror and shake my head. Head downstairs to ‘breakfast,’ included in my package (flights London-Agadir and seven nights in a hotel for £175). The bread’s stale, there are flies in the jam, pork, a few dried up salad veges and tea and coffee. Orange juice is the equivalent of £3 and water almost £2. I eat a few slices of cucumber and a chewy slice of bread. Put my toes in the swimming pool – too cold.
I go for a walk and within 2 minutes of leaving the hotel, a Moroccan man spies his chance. I tell him I didn’t need any help, but he follows me to the supermarket and ‘helps’ me find milk, water, juice, yoghurt, breakfast bars and a few other bits and pieces that I need. I thank him and get rid of him with a few dirhams (1dh = £o.o8).
I drink the milk and eat the yoghurt, knowing they won’t last in the heat, and head for the souk (market). On the way I spot a Supr@tours office, one of the private bus companies in Morocco. I enquire as to my options for getting to Fes and continue my wandering. I find a few street stalls, and buy the necessities: sandals, sunglasses, sunhat. The 40 something year old I buy the sunglasses and hat from asks me to marry him. I decline. I go to see the tour provider recommended by expedia.co.uk, who I booked my trip through. All the tours are ridiculously overpriced and they won’t haggle. Rachid, a young man who works there, insists on giving me his phone number and suggests we go out to dinner.
My headache begins to return, despite the painkillers I got from the hospital (this headache has been with me for over a week now).
I continue towards the souk. Less than 5 minutes down the road, and another man approaches me. I tell him I don’t need his help. He follows me anyway. He points out things I already know about. “This is the palace,” “This is Mohammed St,” “The souk is up this road.” He takes me not to the souk, but to his “father’s” shop, where they make me drink tea (I tell them I’m allergic to mint, so at least I’m not forced to swallow anything truly horrid), give me toothpicks and lipstick, tell me I should wear make-up because I’m not pretty enough without it, tell me I need to lose weight (true, but still rude), talk me into buying tea (did I mention I don’t like tea?), jasmine and a bunch of other stuff I don’t need or want, put it in my bag (I tried to resist), and tell me it costs the equivalent of £35. I don’t have that much cash and tell them this. I try to give back the ‘purchases’ but they insist I take them and the first man follows me to an ATM. I’m rejected by 4 different ATMs. You’d think this would discourage the man. No, when I finally get money out, he insists I give him £5 for his time. I’m tired, my head hurts, my throat hurts, I’m hot and thirsty and my bag is heavy with the water and juice I’m carrying. I don’t have the energy to resist. I give him the money and walk back to the hotel in a grump. I make a list of the day’s events.
- proposed to by old guy
- hit on by 18 year old
- rejected by numerous ATMs
- uncomfortable and unhappy
And yet, none of this matters, because today, the first day of the Islamic calendar year of 1432, is the day that I, Emma Lord, ride a camel! (check!)
His name is Zekkeriah, and a beautiful French couple who are with me ride his brother, Mustafa. Our guide never tells us his own name. I climb on and am tipped backwards as Zekkeriah goes onto his front knees. Then I’m tipped forward as he gets onto his hind feet, and I finally level out again as he stands fully. More fun than riding an elephant, so far.
We ride slowly through scrubby sand dunes, past a group of children who wave and chase us. A man on a beautiful dappled white and grey horse joins us. The whole experience is made even more surreal, although less exotic, as we ride alongside a lush green golf course. We come to a river where we dismount (forward, back, level, climb off!) and our guide provides water and dresses us in traditional Moroccan clothing for photographs.
Back on again (climb on, back, forward, level!) and we head back along the sandy path, this time galloping a short way (bouncy!). Eventually we come to small streets where children stare as we go past and from our high viewpoint we can see into people’s gardens where a man is beating dust from a rug and women spread washing on the dusty ground to dry. Back at the camel ‘ranch’ we dismount again and Zekkeriah and Mustafa are led away as we sit and eat dates and drink water (I use my mint allergy excuse to decline the tea again).
Camels are incredibly amusing beasts, and I am fascinated by them, but apart from the mounting and dismounting process, I think I prefer elephant rides – they can swim across rivers without getting you wet, and you can sit on their heads!
Smile on my face, I return to my hotel and sleep for 30 hours, waking only to take painkillers.