Malcolm Bassett-Smith FRGS Photojournalist, recalls the ultimate massage, just one of his many experiences on a fanatastic break to Agadir ....
Morocco – Riad all about it!
I don’t know what it is, but I have always had a yearning to visit Morocco, with the help of BMI that box is now ticked.
Morocco has a distant feel to it despite the fact it is only three hours away flight time. It has that image of being magical, exotic, mysterious, and dangerous in a 1930s Hollywood kind of way. I see men in fez’s smoking Russian cigarettes and making enigmatic signals between each other. Here I am in BMI’s Terminal 1 lounge, Heathrow, and soon it is going to be a reality.
Will the camels be passaging me across the desert in steady plods or will they be lined up next to the ATM machines just as in so many other tourist traps? Time will soon tell.
Three hours later and I am in Agadir, on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. I have my first mint tea as the local band greets me with drums and cymbals. Clearly they are aware that I have ‘snapped’ the likes of Mick Jagger and they are keen to avoid any confusion. They have succeeded!
Onto the Sofitel Royal Bay Hotel (http://www.sofitel.com/gb/hotel-5707-sofitel-agadir-royalbay-resort/index.shtml) where I am to spend the next few days. I am greeted with mint tea and I detect a pattern forming. This is a quality hotel that offers realistic opulence and relaxation within the room rate.
The hotel is reasonably new, and as I am to discover so is most of Agadir. On the 29th February 1960 a freak earthquake flattened the city at a cost of 15,000 lives; not the best way of celebrating a leap year! And ever since Agadir has been gradually reborn. There is still evidence of “work in progress” but at least they are doing it right.
I get an immediate message, life happens slowly in Agadir, there is no need to rush, everything will be there tomorrow (unless of course you said this on the 28th February 1960).
The beach is busy and there is no shortage of tanned flesh to cast a glance over. And hammocks, lots and lots of hammocks to climb onto and chill out. I am seduced to unwind, forget the holiday reading, forget the iPad, I might just have enough energy to lift a gin and tonic. It has to be Bombay Sapphire and Sch...
The sea is quite noisy at times as the Atlantic rollers crash onto the coast slightly further to my left. Surfers regard this as a paradise. But surfing is too energetic for me right now, it is November and I want the Atlantic sun to perform magic on me as I order another drink.
Time for a meet and greet; the good and well scrubbed of Agadir come to meet us. So often this is the boring bit of a visit, but here I am met with enthusiastic and professional people determined to offer visitors the most amazing experience. They are starting to win me over, they come with gin.
With dawn comes the opportunity to take a good look around, I visit the Kasbah, the souk and the old city. The Kasbah was flattened due to the earthquake, this means more time for the souk. The souk whilst not perfect offers tastes, smells and visions of Morocco, so onto the old city – flattened by the earthquake. Back to the souk. I love the spices, colours and magic of the souk, but haggling can take time. A nice leather belt starts at £20 and after hoots of derision eventually finds itself at a more realistic £4. I have to be honest, this is not Tangier or Marrakech, but it is still worth the effort.
Agadir whilst offering sun and sand, is still finding its way, but it is getting there rather quickly. European visitors have brought the love of golf and courses are springing up rapidly. As I write we are looking at eight serious offerings, but give it two or three years and you will be looking at triple that number.
A boat trip of the coast proves that there is life in the water, I catch two serious mackerel. I regard them as monsters the locals regard them as bait for the next day. We settle for fish fresh from a passing fishing boat. I feel robbed but my tummy is satisfied.
Food is a serious matter here, with significant French visitors, standards are important and I find myself being the target of culinary competition. The winner has to be the amazing Riad Villa Blanche. Here we are talking uber quality accommodation and uber uber quality food. I share dinner with Sophie Provenza, a consummate professional in the hotel industry. If it is not perfect it doesn’t appear on her table. She knows of my love of good food and drink and welcomes me with a unique champagne mojito. I am seduced... Villa Blanche draws you in and drips luxury onto you for a rather affordable price. I will return here, that’s a promise.
There is no Patsy and Edina here, but I do look on Catherine Deneuve and her guests and hear whispers of Jacques Chirac taking a diplomatic lunch just yards from my table, maybe he knows of impending legal action and is keeping his head down. So it appears I am not the only celeb to be found close to Morocco’s Atlantic coast.
How do I end my winter break? Well a lady is offering me the ultimate massage using argan oil, I allow her to cover me in luxury and leave me smelling of caramel. This is such a hard life.
BMI are flying between London’s Heathrow Airport and Agadir twice a week throughout the year and for a piddling £129 return it is an offering any serious traveller cannot afford to miss. (www.bmi.com).
Having dreamed of it, I can now openly subscribe to the club, Morocco is one of the places to be and be seen in. I have a tan, I have a recharged battery and I have a desire to experience a lot more of it. It’s a two thumbs up from me.
bmi Captain Ian Marshall, my personal driver, was pleased to hear my input and added “I was expecting eastern Europe today for found myself in North Africa, it all makes a pleasant change from north London”. Ian, let me introduce you to Sophie. ..
• bmi operate two flights each week from Heathrow Terminal 1 www.bmi.com
• Robinson Hotel now offer an all inclusive holiday package, visit your Tui travel agency (mega value)
• If you are looking for the ultimate in luxury go to
Hotels can be booked online with complete ease offering the best of room rates all year round.
• Moroccan currency has to remain in the country and can only be used to purchase MOROCCAN produce in the Duty Free lounge – so use it up before getting to the airport for departure!
• Temperatures throughout the year range from mid 20s to mid 30s centigrade
• There is no special visa requirement and holders of full UK passports must have at least 6 months left on them.
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