The Plague. Battle of Algiers. There are not many people who are attracted to a destination based on a novel about a deadly infectious disease and a film about a war for liberation from the yoke of colonialism, but I have wanted to go to North Africa ever since my encounter with both works while in high school. Then, throw in an obsession with the desert scenes shot in Tunisia in the film, The English Patient, and you have a full on obsession. Granted, Morocco is certainly not Algeria. It isn’t even Tunisia, and I didn’t come close to touching the Sahara desert. Nonetheless, Tangier, a 45 minute ferry ride away from the historic Spanish port of Tangier, was an excellent, brief introduction to a region where I would like to spend considerably more time.
Here I am on the ferry, contemplating the brief trip:
We proceeded to do what the Clash would want us to do, rock the Kasbah
(which actually just means that we spent a few moments exploring the old fortress, originally built by the Portuguese).
From just outside of the walls of the Kasbah
, there was a beautiful view of Spain across the Atlantic (we were on the Atlantic side of the Strait of Gibraltar).
What makes me instantly fall in love with these kinds of towns? Well, the old quarter of Tangier, centered around the Medina, instantly reminds me of those other Islamic-influenced towns that I love so much – Stonetown
in Zanzibar and Istanbul. I love the narrow streets, and the aging infrastructure.
I love the bustling street scene in the old Medina.
I love the balconies and the internal courtyards inside of the Arabic mansions.
I love the anticipation of a good Moroccan meal capped off with a tangine
Heck, I even don’t mind the snake charmer, although I am not sure how native to Morocco that actually is. I even don’t mind it when it reminds me of that terrible ballet production of Tales of the Arabian Nights
in which I performed the role of a snake being charmed (in that awful, awful green unitard
which really upset me because there is no fluorescent
green snake that is going to be charmed; what was I supposed to be – a green mamba?).
David wasn’t as big of a fan of Morocco, because wherever we went, he felt like people just wanted our money. It is true; they did, but I am expect no less when I come to a place like Morocco. I don’t resent the snake charmer, the guy selling pictures on top of his camel for a Euro a pop, the hordes of street vendors, the rug vendors, the spice vendors, or any of them. They are just trying to eek out a living the best way they can, and of course they are going to target seemingly wealthy European tourists. They have to provide for their families (and by all accounts, Moroccan families are pretty large). If anything, the situation just gives me privileged First World guilt, because I wish I was able to do more. By all accounts, I am just so lucky to be where I am in my life so that David and I can spend many, many euros on a lovely homemade Moroccan rug.
Here is David on the ferry as we are pulling away from Tangier. It may sound strange to say, but I love visiting places where the trip ends in tears for me – because the crying means that place has once again awakened my awareness of how much need the world has for change and how much I need to change to make the world a better place.
(Addendum: On the way to Taifa, we saw the famed Rock of Gibraltar from the road. Since we already were staying at what felt like Wee Britian, we decided to hold off on a trip to the actual Wee Britian for this trip, even though I really wanted to see those apes.)