By Emily Rathmanner
By Emily Rathmanner
Agadir – I stumbled down a dusty hill, down some makeshift stairs that were built from packed dirt and broken slabs of concrete.
My guess was that I found the locals’ short cut to the beach. I passed by women in veils sweeping their mosaic front steps, dingy surf shops, and a friendly gang of street cats on a scavenger hunt for today’s breakfast.
Moving slowly, in awe with the fresh, new air that smelled of slow cooked tajine and African saltwater, it hit me: I was in Morocco. It was refreshing; I was back in the lands of roads without rules, wild beach dogs, a culture different than my own, and best of all, simplicity.
It was my first day of many soon to come in Tamraght, Morocco, a small surf village about 15 km from the coastal city, Agadir. The short cut led me to find a small café where I sat down for a Moroccan pancake (a crispy crepe with butter and honey) and, of course, the country’s famous drink: mint tea.
With each sip, I fell more in love; more in love with my sweet, new surroundings and my very, very sweet tea. I watched the local’s routine of life that surrounded me: men sitting down for a quick “nous-nous” and cigarette, a woman hanging clothes from her upstairs window, and two kids playing on a single bicycle laughing down the street.
Realizing there was much more to explore that day, I paid and waited for a chance to cross the busy road that led to the coastline. It was chaos, yet somehow, flowing all together to create order. Two boys zimmed by on an old motorcycle while holding a dog, group taxis (which for some reason were all white Mercedes) honked impatiently, and buses filled with eyes looked down into mine.
The coast was crowded with families, surf camps, and smiley salespeople offering leather bracelets, tea, camel rides and hippy pants. Although August is low season for tourists and surfers alike, it’s summer vacation for the locals: A chance for those who reside in the busy cities and steamy deserts to cool off by the sea.
Bordering the sand’s edge was a long row of beach shacks. A small village of houses made from mostly organic materials: Mud, cement, bamboo, rocks, and recyclables. As I passed by the mud homes, I looked into cracked doors, curious of what was inside. Clothes hung from lines waiting for the sun, last night’s tajine pots waited to be washed, and skinny cats waited for their fishermen to return home with a fresh meal.
I meandered and admired how each house had it’s own style, nothing like the “cookie cutter houses” you can find back in America. Some were simple: a muted color with a small door, no windows, small and square with palm roofs. Others stood out with eccentric detailing, bright colors, and front terraces like they came right out of an off the grid travel magazine.
I noticed a man appear out from an upstairs window. If this mud hut belonged to him, he was the lucky owner of an oceanfront home. The house, painted pink with a surfboard hanging above the front door, naturally gave off a warm welcoming.
Between his hookah exhales, the man smiled at me and gave a wave. I waved back.
“How are you?” the man asked.
“Quite well,” I answered, “It’s my first full day in your beautiful country.”
“I like your house! Would you mind if I take a picture?”
He nodded yes and motioned me closer.
The man met me on his terrace. I admired the details: the simplicity, the colors, the artwork, the comfort. We continued to talk and he invited me inside the pink mud for for tea and hookah. Entering his home was like stepping into a wonderland: Colorful, glittered stoned walls, handmade sea-inspired décor, eccentric posters, and bright cushions lined his living area. His hookah burned, giving off an Arabic apple scent, an acoustic guitar sat in the corner, and a ceramic camel chilled on a ledge enjoying the sea breeze.
My new friend’s name was Ayoub and he called his beach hut “The Bamboo House”. He gave me a tour of the Bamboo House. Past the burning hookah coals, you’ll find a private lounge filled with a low table and benches covered in pillows. There’s a small kitchen area, a bathroom, and storage room for his wetsuits and diving gear. Up some steps is his bedroom – A sanctuary of a place. Teddy bears hang from the ceiling; a collection of CDS, pictures, and surfing books sat on a table surrounded by personal trinkets and memories, and most importantly, a window overlooking his backyard, the sea.
Ayoub has been living in the Bamboo House for the past 15 years. He bought it for a whooping MAD 5,000 which amounts to about 512 USD. Since then, he’s renovated, decorated, and made it his own. He proudly showed off the rainbow rock wall (with added shells and glitter!), the mosaic tile work, and the custom painting he did all by hand.
Varying in style and size, mud houses have been around for many years in Morocco, Ayoub told me, revealing the countries historical heritage and distinct architecture style. The mud house was originally used (and still today) to keep residents cool. Abundant and durable, the mud is an ideal building material since it reserves heat and controls humidity especially in a country where the average temperatures are in 80s.
Over tea, I got to know Ayoub. He was once a fireman in the nearby city. When I asked him why he left his job and moved into the Bamboo House he answered:
“I am a humble person and I like to live in front of the sea more than everything. I did not like lying. I love all the people who [have] compassion for others [and live] without a plan like boats. I am talking to you from the inside of my heart.”
We continued to chat while he smoked his hookah. Our conversation flowed around surfing, philosophy, and daily life in our perspective countries. We showed each other music videos, pictures, and Ayoub played “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bob Marley while we both sang along.
I eventually left Ayoub to enjoy his Sunday. I watched from the beach as he hosted other guests on his front porch for tea and hookah. I thought back to what he said, living a life free of lies, full of compassion, floating along like a boat. I could relate to his answer.
Travel makes you realize that no matter where you are in the world, people see eye-to-eye, holding truth, love, and happiness close to their hearts. Ayoub had left the hustle and bustle behind to live the life that he had always imagined: a simple one. He was surrounded by what he loved: family, friends, the surf, the sea. All he could ever need was either in his mud hut or just outside the window.
Emily Rathmanner is the writer and designer behind Wild Beach Dog, a travel and art blog focusing on exploration, connectivity, creativity, and freedom. Follow Emily’s Moroccan journey and see what she’s doing day to day by following her on Instagram.