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28th March, 2015

Agadir, Morocco

Arriving in Agadir, Morocco to bright sunshine, I was lucky to have been asked to escort the morning tour to Imouzzer Paradise Valley by Jeep. This tour is new to Saga and well worth undertaking. We left the quayside in two large Toyota Land Cruisers which coped with the mountain roads admirably. Our guide was the amusing Ahmed, a mature gentleman without teeth but with excellent self-taught English. He wore a white, full length gown with vivid blue head scarf and carried a carved wooden stick with which to point things out to us. Our first photo stop gave us a panorama of a valley in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains dotted with the famous argan trees and odd herds of goats.

Next up was a curio shop, overlooking a palm oasis on the river, packed to the gunnels with plates, metalwork and fossils; the latter including both small trilobites and enormous ammonites one yard across! This stop also afforded us with our first up close view of an argan tree loaded with beans. We then drove up into the Atlas Mountains proper, entering the majestic Paradise Valley, which I would call a gorge. We saw lots of fish but only one luminous blue kingfisher, a couple also saw terrapins in the warm water. Half way up we got out and ambled alongside the bubbling brook for half an hour in the glorious sunshine.

Driving back down the gorge, Ahmed bought fresh oranges for us all to refresh ourselves with. Time for me to dispense the cold, eucalyptus-scented towels! Our next stop was at a Berber Co-operative where we were given mint tea and pieces of bread to dip into the famous argan oil and various local honeys. My favourite was the honey collected by bees from orange blossom. We were shown how the argan beans are dried on the flat roof, smashed open by hand with two rocks and the slim almond-like seed thus extracted. These are then compressed to release the valuable oil. At the back of the building we were able to enjoy a beautiful botanic garden with Mediterranean scented plants like rosemary and desert plants like agave, cactus and euphorbia. Back on the coast we had our final photo stop overlooking the port for us to take photographs of Saga Sapphire glistening in the bright sunshine. This is a tour that I will long remember!

Destination lecturer Martin P.Lee

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