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rmoss Sidi Ifni - A travel report by robert
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Sidi Ifni,  Morocco - flag Morocco -  Tiznit
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rmoss's travel reports

Sidi Ifni, Spanish Saharan art deco town.

  16 votes
Sidi Ifni is a peculiar art deco Spanish town, marooned upon the southern desert coast of Morocco. How did it come to be here, and why have you probably never heard of it? report of the month contest
Jan 2008


The threat of maritime fog, rolling in from the Atlantic, has so far kept the “sun set” away to the
The threat of maritime fog, rolling in from the Atlantic, has so far kept the “sun set” away to the
Although Sid Ifni was ceded to Spain in 1860, it was not until 1934 that Spain engaged its time and resources into the enclave. There then occurred a bold social, and economic, experiment to create an outpost of Spain upon the coast of Saharan Africa. Like most state organised social experiments it failed. But it has left behind quite the strangest art deco Spanish town, crumbling on the arid Western cliffs of the Moroccan Anti Atlas Mountains. Along the coast around Sidi Ifni a sea mist, and occasional fog, is invoked on hot days by the cold sea currents crashing into the baked flank of the Sahara.

Back to the 1930s, and Sidi Ifni must have been something of a boom town, judging from the number of buildings from this period. There was also a large investment in infrastructure from this point. An airport, lighthouse, military barracks, and most impressive of all a sea to land cable car conveyor for the import and export of cargo. This was an innovative and dramatic way to solve the problem of there being no natural harbour, or even deep enough coastal water to build a harbour.

After Moroccan independence in 1956 the Spanish did not depart the country wholesale in the same way that the French did. Instead they were gradually displaced by the Moroccan state as it exerted its territorial claims. Perhaps because the infrastructure left behind by the Spanish was of a high standard, in comparison to other areas in Morocco, it has luckily been left alone. Investment in housing, and sanitation, had, and still has more dire need elsewhere. So to a large extent Sidi Ifni has frozen in time. It has not been left to ruin. Instead its 1930’s kitsch has been patched, repaired, and boarded up. It has not suffered the blight of European urban regeneration, which is often a fixation of the bureaucratic, trying to conquer culture. Instead it has just been left to exist.

Favourite spots:
The beach will be your destination for most activities.
The beach will be your destination for most activities.
There is not a great deal to do in Sidi Ifni other than look around, at the buildings, and history surrounding you. There are two bars upon the beach front below the Spanish steps. The bar at the hotel Ait Baamrane is good for watching the sun go down over the Atlantic. Next to this is the Ifni Beach Bar. This is somewhat livelier. The beach in front of these bars consists of clean golden sand and a strong rip tide. This is handy if you are a surfer wanting to be drawn out to sea past the breakers, but not if you are a swimmer who does not. A bit of caution will ensure safety. The beach continues out of sight to the North and South. To the North it is rocky, and to the South sandy.

What's really great:
And the next cable car departure will be … … never!
And the next cable car departure will be … … never!
Walk South, along the beach to the Port. While walking there you will see looming out of the mist what appears to be a single large concrete dock, stuck in the middle of the sea beyond the port. This is exactly what it once was. This construction was the loading dock for ships to deliver and receive their cargo from the land to sea cable car conveyor. It is accompanied by two monstrous concrete Pylons that supported the long gone cables and cars on their journey through the sky to the hill station up on the cliff, a few kilometres inland from the dock. The cable car hill station is an immense concrete bunker within which Barbary Falcons make their home in its upper recesses. Outside the hill station hanger lie the last abandoned cargoes to be transported ashore. Piles of 38 year old telegraph poles lie cracked and split, from exposure to the desert weather. A whole fleet of white and blue fibre glass fishing boats had been rescued from the sea, only to be abandoned up in the desert!

Sights:
The derelict Spanish consulate at Sidi Ifni.
The derelict Spanish consulate at Sidi Ifni.
The most striking sight is the art deco architecture of the old municipal buildings grouped around the park of Place Hassan ll. They are clearly un-Moroccan, yet set the tone of the place rather than clashing. They are not particularly Spanish either and clearly come from another age. The result is that feeling of dislocation that you sometimes encounter when travelling. The impression of being somewhere other than the country, and sometimes even the century, which you actually inhabit. There are other factors such as the isolation and general lack of hassle from anyone else that also add to this. I would recommend spending half a day with a camera just wandering around these odd old buildings. From the “jetsonesque” disused church to the melancholy of the abandoned and derelict Spanish Consulate they each have a story.

Accommodations:
The boat design of the house near the hotel is unusual, but it housed the Spanish Navy officers mess
The boat design of the house near the hotel is unusual, but it housed the Spanish Navy officers mess
The Hotel Suerte Loca (crazy squid in Spanish ... I think).
E-mail: suerteloca@hotmail.com
Cost €17 for a double room with shower and toilet.
Tel. 00212 (0)28 875350. Located at the end of Avenue Moulay Youssef.

Nice food, great location, fantastic views. Cliches aside, you really can look at the surf roll in, from your bed ... if you pick the right room. Other rooms look out at cattle egrets grasing on the fields around the lagoon below the hotel. Alternatively you may end up relaxing on a balcony monitoring the days new arrivals from all over the world, arriving by motorbike or scurrying to the beach with surf boards.
The only downside is that the close proximity of the Gendarme station means that the lack of a license to sell alcohol is strictly enforced.

Nightlife:
Atlantic Sunset.
Atlantic Sunset.
There are two bars upon the beach front below the Spanish steps. The bar at the hotel Ait Baamrane is good for watching the sun go down over the Atlantic. Next to this is the Ifni Beach Bar. Which is somewhat livelier. You may witness the odd local attempting a sort of chicken dance to loud Moroccan pop music. This is played inside the bar and outside on the terrace facing the sea. The terrace can be observed from within the male toilets by specially constructed peepholes at eye height above the urinals. Draw your own conclusions.

Hangouts:
What we did 40 summers ago.
What we did 40 summers ago.
Definitely try out the patisserie on Avenue Hassan ll. It is just opposite the old "twist hall" and serves the second best freshly squeezed orange juice in Morocco. This can be accompanied by fresh sponge and cream cakes, biscuits, croissants, and fine coffee. All for a few dirham a piece. Don't waste your money and appetite on a 25 dirham breakfast of bread and jam in a cafe. If you start the day here you will be energised to explore the land or swim in the ocean.

Restaurants:
Whitebait, seen within the port, will appear on your menu as Merlin!
Whitebait, seen within the port, will appear on your menu as Merlin!
The best food I tried was at the hotel Suerte Loca. There is an extensive menu board, although only a few dishes will be available from the kitchen on any one day. Good sea food should not be hard to find among the other restaurants and cafes, and because of its recent Spanish history Paella is still a popular local dish.







For further information and photography, visit the web link below:



http://

travelartcorrespondence.blogspot.com

Other recommendations:
Natural swimming pools abound along the coast, North of Sidi Ifni.
Natural swimming pools abound along the coast, North of Sidi Ifni.
You can take a hike north along the beach to Legzira where there are sea arches within the red sandstone and conglomerate cliffs. Part of the walk leaves the beach and takes you up along the Cliffside hills. Alternatively lazy travellers can drive there along the R104 which takes you Northwards along the arid coastal plateau in front of the mountains and behind the sea. This plateau is covered in clumps and mounds of cacti, but few trees and bushes. The odd Swallow and Kestrel patrol through the sky and it seems that only birds could make a living from such a sparse environment. If you choose to drive you will probably miss the Barbary Falcons that power along in front of the cliff faces where they rear their young.

As already stated it is worth walking south along the beach to the port. The Port itself is modern, and is commercially active for fishing. You can see schools of fish fighting for scraps in the harbour, and sometimes fishermen fighting each other over the landed catch.

Published on Tuesday January 15th, 2008


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Sat, Jan 31 2009 - 05:28 PM rating by ilias

Must have just missed you in Ifni having got there in Feb. I stayed there for a month and fell in love with a local family.
Sidi Ifni is quirkly odd and interesting. One of the sights that impressed me was seeing people sitting in the middle of the abandoned airfield at dusk gazing at the hill meditating. The airfield is impressive too being a quarter km wide and 1km long surrounded by the town.
Ifni had some serious unrest in the summer over unemployment. The authorities stomped on this very heavily.Check out Youtube for videos.
But I enjoyed your review.You got Ifni down to a T.

Mon, Mar 31 2008 - 08:58 PM rating by eirekay

Marvelous Report - no wonder it was RoM!

Sat, Feb 16 2008 - 04:28 AM rating by akhila

Well deserved RoM.

Mon, Feb 11 2008 - 11:09 PM rating by krisek

Robert, congrats on the RoM. Well deserved! Yeah!

Wed, Feb 06 2008 - 06:45 PM rating by louis

Great report, congartulation on being rewarded RoM

Wed, Feb 06 2008 - 12:42 PM rating by horourke

congratulation

Sat, Feb 02 2008 - 06:04 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Fantastic report about a very rarely visited place.

Thu, Jan 17 2008 - 12:47 PM rating by bineba

Thank you very much for writing such a great report on a place that sounds truly fascinating. Did you come across this place by chance or did you read about it somewhere?

Tue, Jan 15 2008 - 02:34 PM rating by davidx

Rudi has said just about everything. This would be 5* any time but from someone joining yesterday it's remarkable. I suspect you must have a lot more reports in you! It would be hard to believe that htis is the only place anybody has been!

Tue, Jan 15 2008 - 01:24 PM rating by rangutan

What a dreadful desolate way-out place? No, what a fantastic "first" report! Very very well done and hope to read about more of your wild adventures. Great photos, hope you can upload some of them to the main gallery too for us, please.....

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