Sidi Ifni, only about 30 km south of our hotel in Mirleft, deserved a visit – it was a Spanish enclave until 1969 that Morocco got control over by cutting off Spain’s road access! It was built in the 1930s as a military garrison, in the architectural style of the time, which was Art Deco, and there are buildings from that era that have been restored to their former glory, with beautiful pastel paints and rounded details. There are also remains of the Spanish army garrison buildings, of an airfield that used to service the area, and even of the Spanish consulate.
There is an abstract beauty to the coastal buildings in both Mirleft and Sidi Ifni – many are box-shaped, painted stark white, with only a few small, square, bright blue painted window frames. The overall effect, viewed from a distance, is especially striking in the Moroccan sunlight, which somehow is both soft and capable of casting hard-edge shadows at the same time. These buildings, grouped together in a housing development, or a town, look like a cubist construction, rather more like a painting than what they are.
This ethereal effect vanishes on closer inspection, though, both of Mirleft and of Sidi Ifni. The trash thrown over the cliff sides, even right at the ocean’s edge, the smells of inadequate sewer systems, the torn-up roads and dilapidated condition of many of the buildings, all produce more of a Skid Row feel when I see it myself, not just look at photographs or read others’ travelogues. There are also bars in Sidi Ifni with locals slumped in chairs, looking unable to move, and lots of kif smoking, in the streets, on the sidewalks, and in the outdoor cafes, both by locals, and by the young backpackers that ramble around town, looking to get high. The dissolute air to this small town, located toward the southern end of the road that leads to the Western Sahara, seems timeless.
We stop off at the Sunday souk, held in a dusty patch of bare ground in the center of town. It looks as if people have backed their trucks up to their spots, and just dumped everything they have out on the ground…shoes, clothes, garlic, chickens, turkeys, cheap hardware and tools, the lot…Tali finds some packing tape that she’s been looking for, but still no luck finding bubble wrap, for insulating our clay tajine against the rigors of air travel. We may have to improvise something else…
We drive slowly, slowly around town, stopping often to take photographs, and then, feeling grateful we decided not to book a room here in Sidi Ifni, but to make it only a day trip, we head back for our final night in Dar Tajmat.