The Sea’s BrideBy Eduardo MANET Sofitel Agadir Royal Bay Resort
I’m a doctor. Rather, I’m a researcher, a specialist obsessed with blood diseases. All blood diseases. I had succeeded in bringing to the institute that I created 20 years ago the person who would become my principal collaborator, a “rising star” who had been working in Zurich at the time. We had given him carte blanche, because it was not so much the money that interested him but the possibility to work freely, without having to submit to orders defined by the Institute. During the 20 years of our collaboration, neither he nor I have ever regretted it. Over time, he has become a friend, someone in whom I have total confidence. I admire him and, I must admit, I am also a bit jealous, because he continues to work with the same dedication and energy as he always has. Myself, have I become more doctor than researcher? I now take greater satisfaction in receiving patients and studying actual cases than in making remarkable discoveries. My position as general director, with its attendant administrative, diplomatic and political duties, has begun to weigh on me. It’s true that I have not taken a vacation for some time. My travels and numerous visits abroad are always related to Institute business. This morning, I was overcome with fatigue, as if I were carrying a lead weight on my shoulders. Was it simply a passing funk? A lack of sun?
Last night, I dreamed of Morocco. Good Freudian that I am, I know that repressed desires constitute the deep underlying matter of our dreams. I don’t know why, but I have always loved that art of North Africa…. No doubt it’s because I have always felt at home in Morocco. However, this morning — or was it in my dream? — the image of Agadir comes to mind quite unexpectedly. As a Moroccan friend said :
“It’s not you who came to Agadir, it’s Agadir that came to you. It’s written. You have to believe in fate.”
Actually, this friend, aware of my interest in history, had given me a fascinating book one day in Essaouira : Chronique de Santa-Cruz du Cap de Gué — Santa-Cruz du Cap de Gué being modern-day Agadir. The book is a 16th-century account written by an anonymous Portuguese soldier. I took a liking to this period of Portuguese colonization (which in fact was quite short) at once. Santa Cruz du Cap Gré. With the Spanish occupying part of Morocco, the Portuguese demanded a slice of the pie. And what a slice! With the foothills of the Atlas as a backdrop, it was a wonderful stretch of coastline and the large bay permitted the development of trade, which was essential for establishing a presence in the region. Under the Portuguese, a large town developed, populated by Portuguese and Moroccan families. To protect these communities and to discourage attacks from abroad, the Portuguese built a fort around the town of Santa Clara.
But in 1540, Moulay Mohammed, son of Chérif de Sous, laid siege to the fort and conquered the town. The Portuguese soldier gives a stunningly sober account of the fall of Santa Clara in 1541.
Years later, in 1572, Moulay Abd Allah el-Ghalib built a hilltop casbah that includes the remnants of the Portuguese fort. This captivating book served as my guide to Agadir. Of course I knew that the city had been almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake in 1960 and I had expected to still feel and see the traces of that terrible disaster. But 50 years later, Agadir’s wounds
seem to have healed. It is now a white city reminiscent of certain Andalusian pueblos. That is, the feel of the place, not its external appearance. I crossed the city on foot and by car, from residential areas to working-class neighborhoods, and I was struck by the city’s gentleness, its peaceful rhythm, its amiable residents and their welcoming smiles.
From the old fort, I looked down upon Agadir and its port, where today boats from around the world are docked. The city had not been ruined by the unchecked, chaotic urbanization that has disfigured the southern coast of Spain. In Agadir, the hotels sit peacefully side-by-side, beautiful buildings in pleasant neighborhoods. And across the avenue, there are cafés, restaurants, and stores, tourism developing without provoking the parade of poor taste that has become unavoidable along certain French beaches. Agadir is also a university town, young, industrious and lively. Strange coincidence : I dream about Morocco, I think of Agadir and the same morning I receive a letter and a package sent from Marrakech by a former colleague at the Institute, Dr. Alberto Sanchez-Cuevas, a renowned oncologist, who a few years ago had been seeking a change and had left us to travel the world. Now I receive a letter from him in a package mailed in Morocco, a country, he explained, that he was only passing through. Sanchez-Cuevas writes about a patient with a rare form of leukemia, a case that was particularly problematic for him. “You know, my friend… Illness is sometimes capricious and plays tricks on you. I did my best. I thought you could take over for me. I am convinced that you are the man for this situation.”
The package contains a file. And this file is perplexing. In his letter, Alberto Sanchez-Cuevas also asks me to meet a
mysterious man whom he calls “The Emissary.”
“A man of irreproachable character who will explain to you… the unexplainable. You can believe what he says. He is an honest and trustworthy man.”
Flipping through the pages of the file, I learn that The Emissary is a lawyer with degrees from the universities of London, Yale and Cairo; that he had studied philosophy for pleasure at the Sorbonne. A linguist and a polyglot, he has a complex personality. As for the person whom he represents… There is little information, except that he has a long reach, as they say. An octopus whose arms extend everywhere. Oil here, diamonds there, an abundance of gold. He is considered to be one of the richest men on the planet. Alberto Sanchez-Cuevas draws my attention to a detail of this invisible potentate’s personal life.
He had married an Englishwoman with whom he had been madly in love, but he was a terribly jealous man. So he had transformed an oasis that he owned into a veritable Garden of Eden, where he could live with his beloved wife far from all others. A secret paradise. It was said to be somewhere in the Sahara. In Libya. Or Morroco. Or Algeria? No one knows. The Englishwoman loved the sea. To please his wife, he had bought a yacht and every summer the couple would go on a cruise, accompanied by their daughter, the little Azalée, a child blessed by Allah. Every summer, the ritual was repeated : The luxurious yacht would be anchored off a coast somewhere and the Englishwoman would plunge into the water and swim for hours. This eccentric behavior was cause of much dispute between the spouses, and the husband finally accepted it.
“Milady has nothing to fear in the sea,” he tried to reassure himself.