You Don’t Have to Surf to Fall in Love With This Bohemian Moroccan Beach Town
The former fishing village of Taghazout, on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, has long been loved by surfers for its great waves and relaxing pace of life. But although it’s mostly remained under the radar, word is getting out on this idyllic spot.
The pathways of Taghazout, a small fishing village north of the city of Agadir, wind past bright murals, white-washed buildings with azure doorways, dripping wetsuits hung to dry in the warm air, quivers of rental surfboards, and finally, down to the beach. Blue fishing boats lie overturned on the rocks after a morning’s work, and in the curling waves beyond, a handful of surfers watch the horizon.
Taghazout saw its first surfer tourists in the 1970s, and ever since, there has been a regular influx of wave-chasing visitors. The area boasts some of the most perfect right-hand breaks the world has to offer, and in a country increasingly known for its choice waves, many people consider the tucked-away town Morocco’s capital of surfing.
“I have lived here for 42 years,” says Mbark, a Taghazout fisherman. He shows me a sepia-toned photo of the village from 1972 that shows only a few buildings made of earthen bricks. “There are more people living here and fishing [now]. . . . It’s not the surfers’ fault for bringing more people. I’m thankful that we can make a living here and surf, too.”
While well-known to surfers and Moroccan vacationers, the word on Taghazout isn’t yet out to global travelers. Daily action in the sleepy spot still consists of wandering through the one-road town escorted by a jaunty village dog, sitting down in a quiet café to enjoy a nous nous (half milk, half espresso) with residents, walking the beaches, and lounging in the sun. You definitely don’t have to be a surfer to enjoy the scene.
Away from the waves, en route to Taghazout, gnarled argan trees dot the landscape of the Anti-Atlas Mountains. The seeds from their fruit are pressed to yield argan oil, which is valued in beauty treatments and culinary circles and can be found all over the region. You may spot a tree in the distance adorned with what looks like gigantic fruit. In fact, those large shapes are actually goats that have climbed the tree to feast. It was once thought that local farmers allowed the goats to devour part of the argan harvest because the goats passed the seeds in their scat—thus seeding new trees—but recent studies have shown that they disperse the larger seeds during rumination.
But you don’t need to follow the goats to get your hands on some argan oil. Your best bet is to head into town and make for a local market or an argan oil women’s cooperative. There are generally two types of oil sold, differentiated for cosmetic or culinary purposes. Be sure to try amlou, a delectable spread that consists of almonds, honey, and argan oil.
For a break from the beach-lounging and market-strolling, take the 40-minute drive from Taghazout on winding roads through the foothills to Paradise Valley. Called “Tagharat Ankrim” by the local Imazighen people (the term “Imazighen” is preferred over the colonial term,“Berber”), Paradise Valley is a palm-lined gorge with still pools of turquoise water and cascading waterfalls along the Ankrim River. Day-trippers jump from natural ledges into the deep, cool water to escape the summer heat in this adventure playground. For non-surfers, this is an ideal place to be when the surf is good and everyone else is on the beach or in the waves.
It’s hard to keep quiet places secret. Taghazout, which once had one hotel (opened in the 1990s), is now home to six hotels, more than 10 surf shops, and a handful of restaurants and cafés. In town, the World of Waves boutique hotel is right on the beach, and just down the road, Sol House and Tadenga Surf Village is a relaxed eco-conscious resort with surf-lesson-and-stay packages. Curving south along the beach outside of town in the new Taghazout Bay development are construction zones for villas and apartments, as well as hotels by Fairmont, Hilton, and Marriott, scheduled to open in 2019 and 2020.
Despite the town’s having grown since those early days of hippies and surfers, its laid-back vibe remains unchanged. While I’m sipping coffee and talking with Mbark, surfers stride across the beach to the water with boards under their arms, and two camels saunter in the other direction being led by Imazighen men. Mbark takes it in and smiles. “See?” he says. “There is no problem. We can all live.”
Still, you might want to make a point to go now.
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