AGADIR was, by all accounts, a characterful port, prior to the terrible earthquake of 1960 that completely destroyed it. Just four years into independence, the earthquake was an especially traumatic event, but its reconstruction showed modern Morocco at its best, and half a century on, the result is quite impressive. Swathes of park and garden break up the hotel and residential zones, and the magnificent beach is untrammelled by Spanish Costa-style high-rise building. It sometimes feels that the city is a little souless, but the lack of bustle has novelty value coming from any other Moroccan town. Despite the air of calm, Agadir is nonetheless the core of Morocco’s fifth-biggest urban conglomeration, with a population of some 700,000. Its main industry, as will be immediately apparent to even a casual visitor, is tourism.
Downtown Agadir is centred on the junction of Boulevard Hassan II and Avenue Prince Moulay Abdallah with Avenue du Prince Sidi Mohammed. Rebuilt in 1960s “modernist” style, it has all the trappings of a town centre, with office blocks, a post office, town hall (Hôtel de Ville), municipal market and banks. Just to the northeast is an area known as Talborjt, with a concentration of budget hotels and small café-restaurants.
Agadir’s history closely parallels that of Morocco’s other Atlantic ports. It was colonized first by the Portuguese in the fifteenth century, then, recaptured by the Saadians in the sixteenth, carried on its trading with intermittent prosperity, overshadowed, more often than not, by the activities of Mogador (Essaouira) and Mazagan (El Jadida).
Abroad, Agadir’s name was known mainly for the Agadir Crisis of 1911, when, during the run-up to World War I, Germany sent a warship to Agadir bay to support Moroccan independence against French designs. Germany’s real motive – to undermine a Franco-British alliance by using Britain and France’s conficting interests in Morocco – failed when Britain cut a deal with France, allowing the French to split Morocco with Spain while the British got a free hand in Egypt and Cyprus.
The really big event in Agadir’s history was the devastating earthquake of February 29, 1960: a tremor that killed 15,000 and left most of the remaining 50,000 population homeless. In the aftermath, the whole place had to be rebuilt from scratch.