Flying into the tourist portal currently being advertised throughout major cities in Europe and stepping onto the runway of the Marrakech airport was an otherworldly and ethereal experience. Just outside, the recent development in Marrakech is evident. It is a city the color of clay, designed geometrically in pruned rose gardens that maintain an unnatural beauty in the desert clime. The architectural elements include stark geometric figures, plants, repetitive patterns, Arabic scripture, and elaborate doors. I was in love with the mosaic tiling and towers characterizing the mosques.
It is a country whose traffic flow is dictated by motorbikes, sometimes with three or four people creatively contorting themselves on the seat. We jumped into a cab that raced the sun towards Agadir and then to the small surf village Taghazout. Even through the car windows, brilliantly blonde and beautiful travel companion Sam Porter wanted to shave her head from the attention such an American tourist receives outside Marrakech.
Following our own schedule, we didn’t even learn of the two hour time difference for more than a day. I also definitely suggest researching local customs before visiting so as not to appear rude or uncultured. Take off your shoes before stepping on rugs, and don’t throw out bread, as it is sacred in Islam. Also, do not drink tap water. Even if you have a strong constitution, Moroccan bacteria will indubitably befuddle your system. Drinking alcohol, especially in public, can be received with frowns or violence. In many parts of Morocco, women are also required to cover their heads, though not in Taghazout. Just be aware.
Over a Moroccan dinner prepared by the master of the house Abdu, we celebrated Sam’s 21st birthday. Abdu is a divine chef who used all local ingredients to magic into existence a feast for 16 travelers. The fish was something like a tuna, caught that morning right offshore. It was easily the best meal I’ve eaten while in my time abroad. (Someone needs to jump start this man with a restaurant.) We dined on the terrace overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and spent the night listening to Irish folktales, courtesy of Abdu’s girlfriend’s parents and Manu Chao. The crowd consisted of an international crowd: French Canadians, Israelis, locals, Irish, Swiss, and Danes. Despite some communication difficulties, it was a great time with new friends. And everyone had been to Bali, to Egypt, to Myanmar, to Tanzania. Stories swapped over my head while I looked on dazed—I had entered the terrace entertaining the idea that I had been doing a lot of traveling, but in the face of these grand nomads, I felt very new to the game indeed. I have never been so inspired to see it all.
Through the house where we stayed, we rented surf gear and wet suits, and attempted to take on one of the most idealized surf locales on this planet. Most of the tourism of Taghazout is based on the organic-loving, yoga-practicing, neo-Buddhist, vegetarian populace that travels based on the waves dictating one’s ability to hang ten. It is an authentic Moroccan experience though with a higher quality of life. The village is small enough that, by the end of the night, you are recognized by everyone and greeted every morning. And surfers are a lot of fun. I could easily get sucked into this lifestyle, save for my complete inability to get up on the board.
The next day, we did a tour of Paradise Valley, a hike through the dry mountain terrain into an oasis. The group stopped for traditional mint tea, bread, and honey, argan oil, olive oil, and amylou, on the way to the cliff diving site (all delicious local staples). The cliff diving itself was phenomenal with the surreal backdrop. You could jump from as high as about 45 feet, with the admission fee of one heart-wrenching scream and uncontrollably shaking knees. I settled with a lesser cliff, fearing a wardrobe malfunction, and also maybe death, from the higher. The Earth has music for those who listen.
And there is amylou, the delicious cousin of peanut butter, a Moroccan invention that has since haunted my reverie. Well worth checking a bag.
So I return from my vacation from a vacation, smelling of goats and apple shisha, and with an enviable wetsuit tan, ready to take on finals. Maybe I’ll shower now.