Saturday 10 December 2016

Morocco: Doing the Agadoo in Agadir

Agadir, Morocco

Áine O'Connor

Published 22/06/2015 | 02:30

Disco dancing
Disco dancing
Mountains and the sea: The busy promenade stretches for 10 kilometres and goes right down to the marina where there are restaurants and European stores
Souk in Agadir
Paradise Valley near Agadir
Map of Morocco
Club Med Agadir

National stereotypes being what they are, people find it hard to believe that the French are mad for group dancing with actions.

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You know, YMCA, Sexy And I Know It, Gangham Style and yes, The Agadoo? But they are, mad for it. And nowhere seems to cater to this mad-for-it-ness quite like Club Med, which is a French company. For the first few nights of our stay in Agadir the Girlchild and I resisted, whatever about in the separate worlds of our own friends, together we don't do dancing. Well, we didn't used to.

We've done little trips before the Girlchild and I but in recent years she has entirely understandably been less keen to hang out with her ma for too long. But when the chance of a week in Morocco came up she jumped at the chance, especially when reassured there was wifi. Internet access in the resort is only in the bar and pool area and a little iffy at that so there is no chance of teenagers being stuck in the room on their phone. There is also no chance of them being stuck in their rooms watching TV because the only options in English are CNN and BBC World.

The flight from Dublin is three and a half hours, transfer from Agadir's compact airport to the sea, where most hotels are, under half an hour. Club Med is a self-contained village and there is no real need to leave it if that's what floats your boat and seemingly that floats quite a lot of guests' boats. We had a small but functional room with two single beds, TV and bathroom which gave out on to an incredibly well-maintained garden and was just a short walk to the main recreation area.

I woke early on the first morning and found the bar serves great cafe au lait from early to cater for the golfers. Lots of guests, though perhaps not generally the ones doing The Agadoo at night, like to get up early for golf and they're transported to The Ranch where there is also archery, tennis and horse-riding. There's a big pool area which is dug down low for privacy and then the property has sun beds overlooking the promenade and the sea, as well as its own private section on the beach. I was amazed to see the promenade so busy. It is a ten kilometre stretch and goes right down to the Marina where there are restaurants and European chain stores. But there on that early Sunday morning Moroccans were using it and the beach for an impressive array of sporting activities. It was seven am and I was told they started at four! Sense would suggest that this is to dodge the heat of the day but in fact the mornings stayed really nice and cool right up until midday. Irish-people-can-still-sunbathe cool, not Irish cool, under twenty degrees, not under five degrees.

Breakfast service stops at ten so I woke the Girlchild and we made what would be from then on my solitary pilgrimage to the breakfast buffet. ("I'm on holidays, I can't get up at 9.30!!!") An amazing array of everything fruit, pastries, cheese, cooked, fresh and you can eat inside or out, although later in the season, when the village is full to its capacity of over 700 guests, I think you might take whatever table you can find. The all-inclusive package is the gourmand / enthusiastic drinker's delight. Every meal time there is an incredible selection of food, most of it delicious, and you can just rock up for as many refills as you like, same with the bar. It makes for a very nice-cash free existence that adds to a holiday feeling. Staff members come and sit with you if there is free space at the table, which is great when they are chatty, a bit odd when you have to interrogate them but it is a nice way to integrate which makes the holiday feel broader than just your own group. Most of the staff speak great English or are keen to practise but giving your French a shot is way more fun. The Gallic environs even converted a reluctant fourteen year old to the joys of French.

Every day there is a theme, for example Moroccan or Italian, and the bar area and staff are dressed accordingly. The guests are supposed to too but we missed that memo, it was short notice, so I hadn't realised we should have packed outfits. No-one gave us grief for failing to adhere to dress code but they did give us grief for not dancing. We were in the bar every night, mother and daughter wifi-ing, occasionally we even spoke, but we weren't getting involved in any of the activities which was partly laziness and partly mortification. They'd try to encourage us and we'd assure them that no, we absolutely Aga-didn't, didn't didn't. Even with not joining in it made for a good, vibrant environment. Evenings on holidays with teenagers can be difficult, sitting in an apartment is no fun but finding an appropriate bar or restaurant isn't always easy. This way there was always someone saying hello and lots going on around us. As the week progressed, at the behest of The Girlchild we were moving closer to the action and it was then that Amine, who had vowed that we would not escape the entire week dance-free, pounced, dragging a squealing Girlchild onto the dancefloor for some heinous French tune. But the ice was broken and we ended up doing some class of salsa / Riverdance / disco hybrid that must have been really horrible because I ended up getting chucked in the pool. Zizu, who had not jumped in the pool as promised, reckoned he could redeem himself by leading the midnight beach swim. Sure why not?

So yes, you can see why people, with all their needs met in Club Med might decide not to venture beyond its walls. But it seems an awful pity to go to Morocco and just visit France. So out we ventured.

Agadir was largely destroyed by earthquake in 1960 and the Casbah is in ruins. The city as a result is mostly modern, it's also easy and safe to walk around.

The men are a flirtatious lot and I was amazed to be recognised as gender specific, even at my advanced age. But they aren't pushy and generally just want to make Facebook friends. Allegedly.

Most tourists go to the souk, the market, in the morning but the evening was best, mostly locals were there and while there is lots of touristy stuff on offer, there is amazing shopping to be had. Haggling is key, it would be rude not to, and apparently the rule is to half what they ask for and take another twenty per cent off that too. Still, I know I overpaid often but Moroccans are really friendly and good fun and I had some nice cups of tea and good chats about Berber history and a few invites for tagines in their houses. I would, I said, only I'm on the all-inclusive.

If haggling is not your thing, and a lot of people find it daunting, there are plenty of fixed price shops in the little arcades around the city. There is a good selection of restaurants around the beach area, an Irish pub and an English one and the usual American food chains.

Up in the town you can find local food for €4 for a three course simple but delicious meal. Taxis are incredibly cheap and a great way to get around, it can be handy to make friends with a driver outside your hotel and use the same one where possible. Massages and hammam experiences in the hotels are expensive, a two hour one outside hotels is €30.

There are lots of tours to areas around Agadir and further afield with overnights to nomad tents and Marrakesh but we chose to go to Paradise Valley. It was lovely to see and amazingly green. We walked through an oasis and a Berber village, had tagine overlooking the gorge and visited a women's collective, Elixir d'Argan, where they grow herbs and make products from these and the ubiquitous Argan tree. Although amazingly labour intensive the Argan business has been a source of independent income for a lot of women in Morocco so it was lovely to be able to buy direct.

A few tips: The sockets are European so bring your adaptors, Club Med has no toiletries in the bathrooms so bring all shampoos although they can be bought in supermarkets. Do not forget your bikini, someone I know did and finding a replacement was not easy in a Muslim country and the ones for sale in the resort shop were around €70.

Dirhams can only be exchanged within Morocco, the advice is to change them in your hotel and keep the receipt so that you can change them back. They can be spent in the airport souvenir shops but not in duty free. And, whilst you will be assured that it is OK to take 800 duty-free cigarettes or four litres of spirits into Ireland, the customs officers here do not share that feeling.

Getting there

Áine travelled to Club Med Agadir with Sunway Holidays. Sunway, who are Infinite Agents for Club Med in Ireland, offer a direct flight from Dublin to Agadir every Saturday until October 31st. Prices for a club room in Club Med Agadir start at €1099 per adult, €699 per child under 12, €389 per child under 6 based on travel in September. Free stay for children 0-2 years (subject to travel dates and availability at resort). Price includes direct flights from Dublin, transfers, 7 nights' accommodation in a club room, all inclusive board basis, gourmet dining and premium drinks, including wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner  Mini Club Med: For children age 4 to 10 years / Juniors' Club Med / Club Med Passworld: For teenagers from age 11 to 17 (in selected Villages), a range of sports activities/ tuition and nightly entertainment.

Take three

Souk El Had

As the Casbah was largely destroyed in the earthquake in 1960 the Souk is a great way to get a sense of a more authentic Morocco. This big, twelve door market has everything from the world's biggest watermelons to leather pouffes and live baby tortoises. Hagglers will especially enjoy it. Best in the evening between 6 and 8pm. Thirty minute walk from the sea front on Rue 2 Mars, Agadir 80090

Paradise Valley

La Vallee Verte is an hour or so drive from Agadir, we took a Sunway organised tour (330DH / approx €30 pp, half price for under 15s) up into the beginning of the Anti Atlas mountains along the river. It was green and gorgeous, we walked through an oasis into a Berber village and had tagine for lunch with a panoramic view and stopped in a great herb/honey/argan communal business run by local women.

Club Med Dancing

We resisted until we realised resistance was futile. And not half as much fun. The music is borderline criminal but the staff's enthusiasm is infectious and group wiggle wiggle wiggle-ing to Sexy and I Know It around the pool is, if not therapeutic, a great laugh and very much in the spirit of the place. You will never be alone, or the most ridiculous so, if needs be, make use of the all-inclusive bar and just do it.

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