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Ride Morocco's wild surf

Sleepy Atlantic coast fishing village now hopping with international surfers.

Visit any one of the beaches up the road and there’s a good chance you’ll run into yet another distinctively local category of entrepreneur — men in their mid-20s leading bored-looking camels along the beach, looking for foreigners who’ll pay a few dollars for a ride.

But most visitors came here for the promise of a different kind of ride. “On its day there are a lot of really good waves,” said Marc Fennell, a South African surfer who has spent the last three months plying waves around Taghazout after stints in Australia and Indonesia. “In terms of this part of the world, it’s great surfing.”

The village boasts about 30 hotels catering to surfers, known as surf camps, and those who run them say the numbers rise each year.

“Literally the whole town is surf camps,” said James Bailey, owner of a popular hotel called Surf Berbere. “Real estate here has doubled in value, tripled in value.”

Bailey says locals have been mostly welcoming to the 20,000 or so surfers who each season pass through the region. Because the surf season runs from September to April, it has recently overlapped with Ramadan, the holy month in the Islamic calendar when even many of Morocco’s less observant Muslims choose to fast and pray. During Ramadan, Baily said even laid-back Taghazout tightens up, and the visiting Europeans try to follow suit.

“All the girls get told to cover up if they leave the building,” he said.

One of the managers at Surf Berbere, Matthew Newman, said tensions between the surfers and locals are infrequent, but they do exist.

“Sometimes you get a slight feeling like you’re kind of invading their little fishing village,” he said. "But maybe that’s just because I’m British.”