It takes us a few short hours to make the drive from Mirleft north to Agadir, but the two beachfront towns could not be any more different.
Mirleft is a small town with a few blocks of 1930s restaurants and cafes in varying states of decay and refurbishment. Agadir, Morocco’s fifth largest city with a population of 700,000, was first colonized by the Portuguese in the fifteenth century, and was an active trading and fishing port, until just 51 years ago.
In 1960, only four years after Morocco became an independent country,
Agadir’s long history was leveled in a massive earthquake, in which 15,000 residents were killed, and the remaining 50,000 citizens were left homeless. Once the rubble of the old city was cleared away, the government built a new modern global beach resort, intended to make tourism an important part of Morocco’s economy.
Now Agadir is known as a destination resort for package tours from throughout Europe, with many, many three and a few four star hotels and casinos built back in the 1960s, along with several newer, five star properties, like the Sofitel, which is to be our home for the next couple of days.
There is a long, well-maintained boardwalk running right along the beach, which connects the Sofitel, the southernmost resort, with the Marina development of cafes, retail boutiques and a hotel, the most northern, a distance of perhaps four or five kilometers. In between the Sofitel and the Marina are many hotels built in the sixties, along with a long line of restaurants, cafes and tourist shops.
We check into our hotel, which is beautiful and very well maintained, then go for a long walk down the boardwalk. Some of the old beachfront hotels that haven’t been updated, possibly since they were built, have old-style neon signs and dated, disco-era design. Mostly empty because it is now the off-season, they look a bit sad, standing stodgily in their prime locations, waiting uneasily for the return of the tour groups. Their children’s play rooms sit dark and empty, their large lobbies gathering dust and sand.