Not to be confused with the city of Agadir that was destroyed by an earthquake and later rebuilt into a tourist destination, but rather, the traditional buildings that gave the city its name.
Throughout southern Morocco are the remnants of what was once a thriving Amazigh (Berber) culture that extended over most of North Africa. Before the arrival of Phoenicians, Romans, and Arabs, vast empires of desert-dwellers operated as important traders operating routes South to North and East to West across the Sahara Desert.
In Morocco alone, there were hundreds of smaller clans, identifiable by the Amazigh term Ait, as in Ait Ben Haddou, literally “Ben Haddou clan.” Like all human interactions, these groups had regular conflicts. To protect their harvests or personal valuables, these tribes built centralized, fortified storehouses. Much like the term citadel in English, an agadir is a fortification, usually atop a hill and overseen by guards in watchtowers.
I had been wanting to investigate these old fortresses for some time ever since discovering references to them on the Internet, so Nissrine and I decided to spend our mid-winter break searching for them. Though certainly of interest to tourists, the agadirs of southern Morocco are difficult to find. There is not much organized history tourism in Morocco. Most of the focus seems to be on Marrakech and some coastal areas. So, finding information on the Internet can be difficult. Still, we were able to piece together some bits of information and ask around when we were close to where we thought we should be. This is when it was super helpful for have Nissrine around to translate.
We ended up finding three such agadirs, Ait Oughain, Tadakoust, and Ait Kine.
The first place we stopped was far off the beaten track. In fact, the first dirt road we took was so regularly blocked by boulders that we finally had to turn around. Moving smaller ones was fine, but eventually, there were larger ones that we just couldn’t move or go around. Thankfully, we ran into a local villager who told us of another, less primitive road, though we had to drive past our destination in order to reach it.
Between Taroudant and Tafraoute, the agadir of Ait Oughain is amazingly well preserved. According to the woman who unlocked it and showed us around, the daughter of “the trusted,” some families still use their traditional space for storing various things. It was originally setup so that each family of the clan would have a space.
One of the guard towers still stands, so we climbed up to have a look around at the amazing countryside. The village is tucked away in a small valley in the mountains, so the views are stunning.
After Tafroute, we set out for Tan-Tan, a small fishing city near the disputed Sahara territory with an extended area on the coast, but after one night, we headed further inland toward Assa and Zag. This is as far as we were allowed to go because of proximity of Tindouf, the Polisario stronghold in Algeria.
Along the way, we’d picked up a tourist booklet for Morocco’s southern provinces. While I’m sure the writers had the best intentions, it was one of the more confusing “guides” I’ve ever read. Still, we finally deciphered that there was potentially another agadir near the village of Tadakoust atop what the guide called “the three pyramids of Tadakoust.”
As you see below, there are three peaks looming above the village. Atop one is the ancient agadir. The stairs no longer lead to the top, so the precarious climb took us only part way. According to our young guide, there is nothing left there. It’s just an empty shell of a building. Still, it’s amazing that it was built where it was.
The last agadir we visited had been recently restored. There was a plaque at the entrance detailing the restoration apparently with the help of some US organizations. The site was even dedicated in 2016 by then Ambassador to Morocco Bush.
This village was also an important place of government during the Almoravid Dynasty. Near the agadir is an old, and also restored, governmental building. Our guide was kind enough to show us some of the old records. Some are kept on wood that is bitter and so less prone to insect damage. Some are scrolls kept in bamboo tubes. Still, perhaps most impressive was the key to the place. It was massive.