In 1936, there were 210 inhabitants of the 'Old Town', while today it has more than 3000 full time inhabitants and already receives about 250,000 visitors a year - mainly during July and August. This of course is bound to increase with the extra accommodations soon to be on offer on the Mediterrania-Saidia resort, just a 10 minute drive along the coastline.
Entering the town from the main road from Oujda, you can turn left into the centre of town, or go straight and head towards the occupied nineteenth-century Kasbah at the eastern tip. This dates back to 1883 and was the work of Sultan Hassan 1st, spanning an area of approximately 15,600 m2 . Pretty sure this will unfortunately change quite dramatically in the near future. It is currently a residential area, teaming with kids, dogs, cats and a great deal of refuse, which generally does seem to be an issue across much of Morocco. However, I'm personally hopeful that the addition of mass European tourism will assist in rectifying this somehow. Nearby is the local market. Here you will find all the local seasonal produce, and various other occasionally necessary bits and pieces. 'Deluxe Deli market' - it is not, but for fresh daily fare it is an adventure in itself. There really are some interesting sights, but vegetarians may well need to avert their eyes on a regular basis, carnivores however, should find it intriguing.
The Sunday souk (think cheap car boot sale, without the cars and with so much junk it is laughable. However, as I've always said, 'someone's junk, is someone else's treasure' !) is held under the trees between the market and the Kasbah. Although the border may be 'officially' closed, it seems the Algerians do seem to somehow wonder across the 'Oued Kiss' (river/trickle) and mingle freely amongst the stalls - but it is not recommended for you to try this in the other direction unless you fancy a long stay in Algeria, as the Moroccan army do patrol the area, and are unlikely to let you back into Morocco. This is also the area where the Grand Taxis can be picked up, again currently (2008) best to have a smattering of French or Arabic, otherwise you could be in for an interesting and expensive trip.
The two main roads parallel to the beach - Blvd Mohammed and Blvd Hassan II, have now been completely upgraded since I was initially here in 2005. Although, after any downpour (of which October 2008 seems plagued by), there does still seems to be a major drainage issue. These streets are definitely now 21st century, however, venture a couple of extra streets back from the beach and you will see that only the 'main tourist streets' have currently been upgraded with tarmac and street lights. This really is much more apparent if it's been raining, when the streets become flooded and sometimes impassable, luckily the rain is sparse most of the year. Check out the blog pictures for more of a view.
The old town of Saidia is definitely growing and prospering from the addition of the Mediterrania-Saidia, Fadesa development nearby. Not only do all 'new roads', of which there are many now, lead to Saidia, but there are cafe's, hotels and restaurants popping up in abundance, and many new apartments and homes being built. Thankfully there's now a very swish-looking internet cafe, great little 'Supermarche' opposite the Atlal Hotel, selling pretty much everything 'dry' or 'canned' food-wise you might require. It is slightly more expensive than some of the more local shops, but it is our preference at the moment, as it's next door to the French patisserie, where the bread and pain au chocolate are baked on site and the coffee is fabulous. Plus it's a great spot to watch the world go by.
The local hardware store has increased it's stock tremendously! You just need to know what you need and ask for it in French or Arabic, as there is no way it is going to be on display. Believe me ! Best bet is to try and have a picture of what you want with you and show the guy. He'll then disappear for a while out back or upstairs and hopefully return with your goods.
Morocco's Mediterranean coast extends for almost 500kms - from the Spanish enclave of Ceuta east to Saidia on the Algerian border. There are many beaches that are currently entirely undeveloped along this coastline (I sort of hope it stays that way), and the next nearest 'real' seaside resort other than Saidia is Al-Hoceima, a small-time resort and fishing harbour about 400kms from Saidia.
We look forward to assisting you.
The SaidiaHolidayRentals crew.