The word ‘agadir’ means fortress or place of collective storage in the southern Berber dialect of Tashelhiyt. As well as being the name of Morocco’s most famous beach resort, the word agadir is used by Berbers to describe their collective granaries which have been used for centuries to store wealth, crops and items of value such as important documents – in times of peace and plenty, siege and famine. There are important examples across the Souss region and in the High Atlas mountains. Read my article for Travel Exploration about The other Agadir here.
The Ait Bougmez Valley has held a fascination for me since I saw an exhibition of illustrations from Titouan Lamazou’s account of an almost-year spent in the valley in 1981-82, “Onze lunes au Maroc.” Although the people lived – and still do live – so simply and with so little material wealth, Lamazou’s pen and ink drawings and photographs portrayed a life rich in culture in an environment which was clean and bountiful. Little wonder, then, that it is also known as the “Happy Valley”.
Many lowland Moroccans have not even heard of this Maghreb Shangri-La hidden in the High Atlas Mountains. This is at least in part to its inaccessibility: during the time Lamazou was there – and until the construction of a tarmaced road in 2001 – the valley was totally cut off in winter. Even getting there today is a white-knuckle ride of steep inclines and hairpin bends, stuffed like sardines in the typical local public transport of a Mercedes ‘grand taxi’ or minibus.
The first ever Essaouira Festival of Amazigh culture got under way today with the launch of two exhibitions, musical entertainment and a calligraphy workshop. Further events take place over the next days. The Festival coincides with the Berber New Year and closes on Monday evening (21 January) with an open air concert on Place Moulay Hassan. A full programme is available here. Continue reading