A return to the Moroccan Coast

Sean Prendiville
14 April 2014

dscn2541Until the age of eighteen, my familiarity with the taste of saline was limited to the sweat of suburban summer days and dinner table salt. For a Midwesterner raised just outside of Chicago, the briny bouquet of sea air was the stuff of legends, of past lives lived through the eyes of my European antecedents. For we Illinoisans, our only reprieve from the seemingly inescapable vastness of corn and soy extending as far as the Mississippi and beyond was in the remains of a prehistoric glacier called Lake Michigan.

Despite the American Midwest’s parched geography, our lives of land-bound ambulance have never been want of coastal dreaming, for to keep a man from the sea is to deprive his life of awe, not of wonder. I have imagined away lifetimes, wondering at the impossibly distant yet somehow familiar depths that carve and traverse this world. It was this sense of unremitting curiosity for a world so vast yet so little known that I departed from the westerly gaze that gave the Polish in me hope and kept my Irish heart dreaming, and decided to look east—to Morocco.

Although one will undoubtedly find it appealing to wander the medina at Marrakech, spending hours floating from souk to souk while drinking more mint tea than known to exist, you and I will refrain from venturing into the intricate and alluring maze of this Berber metropolis. Rather, we shall hail a taxi from Place Jamaa el-Fnaa and head to the Supratours bus station from where we shall go southwest to Agadir and on to Taghazout.

Following the harrowing bus ride and ritualistic fare haggling for the two legs of this taxicab relay, the minimalist bus station at lonely Agadir (Taghazout’s nearest major city) shrinks out of sight as our driver brings the imposing Atlantic into view. Passing through Banana Village, our Atlantic genuflection is interrupted with the punctuated appearance of caravans: herds of mobilized vacation homes whose once-upon-a-time pearl exteriors have been dusted a lighter shade of bronze by the amber earth. Fleeing the inhospitable winter of their European homelands, these peregrine sojourners arrive to Taghazout in search of vitamin D and a reprieve from the frigid north.

With its one and only thoroughfare consisting of a dirt road parenthetically truncated by a combination of concrete and asphalt slabs, we enter halcyon Taghazout to behold its timeless tranquility yet palpable vivacity. Upon arrival, what appear to be pallid figures lurking in alleyways and speaking in tongues, by holiday’s end prove to be wave-savvy, earthen-colored Brits, Dutch, and Germans newly baptized into the Church of the Sun, their days spent beach-bound having bestowed upon them a glow that irradiates their internal placidity and newfound equilibrium.

Watching from above (a privilege for those fortunate enough to stumble upon multi-level accommodation), one traces the amblings of the people below oscillating between beach, restaurant, and hostel. With boards in tow, the veteran surfers navigate the town with ease while the novices struggle to maneuver through single-lane traffic and narrow passageways, attempting to avoid destroying the myriad souvenir displays and their ever-vigilant owners.

Though much more lax than their compatriots in Marrakech, in true Moroccan fashion the entrepreneurial residents of Taghazout never miss an attempt to capitalize on foreign investment. Perched on their lawn chairs and roadside ledges, these Berber merchants call out to passersby in an effort to spark a conversation that could lead to a sale of any number of their handmade goods. A far cry from the stressful European work-ethic, I came to learn that Moroccans understand the vacuous nature of unfulfilling work as an inconvenient means to an end; a mindset that reflects their understanding of time as invaluable.

Taghazout and, moreover, Morocco brought me to the realization that in stepping away from my immediate world of progress and finish lines, one comes to understand that serenity can be found in a tender ocean breeze or the hush of a cloudless night. I discovered simplicity and content in the eastern hills of clay descending to the shore of rock and sand, in the surf shops and restaurants aplenty, in the women covered from head to toe out of respect for the unknown, in the polyphonic melody of incompatible tongues, in the overture of liquid symphony as the waves swelled and broke, in the scent of calm and in the taste of peace, in the apocalyptic sense of the world, in the feeling of that which is perpetual and in the certainty of eternal return.

As I sit here now, attempting to reveal and understand these things that I have seen I appreciate the finite nature of my words and actions. I know that they are fragmented images and thoughts. I know that in its humbling way of proving everything’s impermanence, the Atlantic erased my fragile steps from the North African shore months ago. And I know that, although my time on the Moroccan coast is but a grain of sand in an infinite hourglass, in the faintest taste of salt on my tongue my heartbreak will dissolve at the sight of the boundless Atlantic and its unfathomable wonder rolling into view.

Insha’Allah.

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