June 1987

The date is a best guess here because I can’t quite remember. I do remember that we saw the James Bond movie “The Living Daylights” not long after we returned and spotted the hotel we were staying at in one of the shots.

The only non-European holiday I took with my parents when growing up was to Morocco where we spent one or two weeks at the Hotel Arabian Sands on the Atlantic coastline. I’ve looked for the place since but can’t find any reference to it online or work out its location from looking at satellite imagery of the Moroccan coast although I know I saw it had been photographed and renamed many years ago. The internet is apparently not forever.

The hotel was a sprawling complex of white, thick-walled buildings with a swimming pool, a small shop, and not much else. My brother and I had a bunk bed in the same room as my parents.

The hotel was isolated with no town anywhere near of note. A few hundred metres from the hotel was a small selection of shops and a restaurant that we visited occasionally. The restaurant had quite a large number of Barbary apes running wild in it. Despite having a reputation as a fussy eater I was the most adventurous person when it came to dining and I remember tucking into shark and swordfish on two visits while everyone else ate more “normal” food.

To get to the restaurant and shops there was a long, straight road lined with salespeople trying to hawk their wares. I remember one day we were heading to the shops with an American family with whom we’d made friends (no idea of their names but I think they were from a US airbase in the UK) with and my dad had told us all to keep walking, don’t stop, don’t interact. We duly did that and reached our destination to find my dad had been waylaid and was surrounded by a group trying to get him to buy souvenirs of some description.

As its name suggested, the Hotel Arabian Sands was close to lots of sand that made up a very golden beach facing the Atlantic. There was in fact a second beach just to the south of where we were that was fenced off and protected by armed guards as it was used by the royal family. The beach was lovely and the waves were fantastic fun to jump in.

Initially we would spend reasonably equal time in the hotel swimming pool and on the beach (both of which were used by locals as well as hotel guests) but following the discovery of a drowned local boy in the swimming pool (who my mum and another nurse tried in vain to save) and the subsequent non-cleaning of the pool despite his body having been in the water for some time the English families boycotted it.

I don’t recall doing much while on our Moroccan holiday. While these days I like to make sure I’m exploring something of interest every day when I’m away my family were much more content to lay around, reading, sunning, swimming, and drinking. There was a day trip to Tangier from the hotel on one day but I couldn’t go as I was taken ill. The rest of my family still went while I discovered the mysterious pink liquid that the American family we’d got to know had on them called Pepto-Bismol.

The highlight of the holiday in Morocco at the Hotel Arabian Sands was an evening of entertainment and dining that we attended with the American family (parents and two girls). It started outside watching horsemen ride up and down firing guns into the air, then there were opportunities to have photos taken with snakes. We then retired to large tents where we sat on cushions around low tables and ate from huge plates of couscous, bread, fruits, etc. As the evening progressed different entertainers would move from tent to tent to perform allowing us to see up close people on beds of nails, fire breathers, singers, acrobats, and belly dancers. A great excursion in what’s been to this point still the only place in Africa I’ve visited.

2 Comments

  1. Really enjoyed this. I went there with my family too, oddly I think at the same time as yourself judging from the events you mention. I literally have almost identical photos to some of these.
    I’d also looked for it online without success, but have since worked it out. If you remember, there were caves and blow holes in the rocks just south of the hotel. Those now seem to be called the Hercules Caves. There’s a five star hotel next to those called le mirage. This was developed from a cafe a few decades ago. So the little cafe and shop, that we used to walk to as well, is now an incredibly upscale hotel. On google earth you can see the old complex north of this along the road. It’s not too clear but I think you can see the old pool and the general outline of what was there.

    • Fantastic. I’d love to see the photos you’ve got as well. Have you scanned and uploaded them anywhere?

      I see what you mean from the satellite photos; yes, that’s definitely the old complex to the north. I did find some photos of the area several years ago of the hotel – it had changed a lot but was still very recognisable – on Panoramio. Sadly, Google took that over and killed it off and the archived site on the Wayback Machine is not something that’s easy to use.

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