OUALIDIA, 78km south of El Jadida, is a stunningly picturesque little resort – a fishing port and lagoon beach, flanked by a kasbah and a royal villa. The kasbah is seventeenth-century, built under the Saadian sultan el Oualid (after whom the village is named) as a counterweight and alternative to Portuguese-held El Jadida. Until Sultan Sidi Mohammed took El Jadida, the lagoon made an excellent harbour and, as late as 1875, a French geographer thought that “by a little dredging the place would again become the safest shipping station on the whole Moroccan seaboard”. The royal villa, now empty, was built for Mohammed V, who celebrated many birthdays and other family events here.
Today, most Moroccans know Oualidia for its Japanese oysters; Morocco’s first oyster farm was launched here in 1957 and nowadays it harvests some two hundred tonnes a year, mostly sold locally. But the town really deserves to be better known as a resort: its beach is excellent for surfing and windsurfing, and swimming is safe and easy thanks to the shielded lagoon. The atmosphere for most of the year is very relaxed, aside from August when the place is jam-packed with Moroccan holidaymakers.