Lying on the Atlantic coast at the mouth of the fertile Souss Valley and almost in the shadow of the Anti-Atlas mountains in the distance, Agadir is popular for one thing: its beach. Crescent-shaped Agadir Bay and its 9km (5 1/2-mile) stretch of golden sand attracts large numbers of all-inclusive holidaymakers nearly year-round. Currently experiencing an increase in popularity as an alternative for those looking for a resort holiday with a twist, the city is largely hassle-free and has a pleasant, relaxed air about it, with the local Gadiris enjoying the current rise in prosperity.
Agadir's history is dotted with 16th-century Portuguese and 20th-century French interference, as well as a brief moment of German interest in the heady "Scramble for Africa" days pre-World War I. This is interspersed with Saâdian and Alaouite rule, but the greatest influence on today's Agadir occurred just 4 years after independence at 11:47pm on February 29, 1960. In 15 seconds, a violent earthquake shook the old city and buried 15,000 Gadiris alive under fallen rubble, leaving the remaining 50,000 inhabitants homeless. It was a particularly traumatic event for young Morocco, and King Mohammed V reacted quickly by declaring to his people, "If destiny decided to destroy Agadir, then its reconstruction depends on our faith and our will." The reconstruction was seen as a chance to build a modern city that would be a showcase of the "new" Morocco. The result is a well-designed (and earthquake-proof) city, unlike any other in Morocco, that's similar to a European beach resort but lacks any of the flamboyance or decadence. Travelers who have regularly experienced other areas of Morocco (such as Essaouira, just 200km/124 miles up the coast) bemoan a lack of any real atmosphere or personality to Agadir, while some new arrivals to Morocco compare the city to more established resorts on the Mediterranean. To me, both points of view could be considered harsh. To stay in Agadir is to enjoy a city that is still developing its character and substance, influenced by the very people who have come to holiday here. It is only just starting to realize its potential as both a base to explore southern Morocco (convenient direct flights from Europe arrive at Agadir's al Massira airport daily) and a destination in its own right.