A weekend in Tangier

10 to 12 December 2016

After some of the wettest weather Gibraltar and southern Spain had seen in years and having made good progress with jobs on the boat we decided to have a weekend away. Africa is so temptingly close and Tangier only a short bus and ferry ride away.

We took the bus round the coast to Tarifa where we found brightly coloured sea front houses and a historical re-enactment before getting on the ferry.

This was the first time we needed tickets and stamps in our passports. However, Moroccan passport control was a rather laid back affair – just a jolly man in a casual jumper sitting on the ferry waiting to dish out permission to enter another continent.

We had a very warm welcome at La Tangerina, a guest house in a restored riad high up in the Kasbah with a roof terrace with views back to Spain.

Having had a taste of the hustle and bustle of life in the maze of Tangier’s streets on our first night we decided that, to avoid getting completely lost and to learn a lot more, we would hire a guide the following morning. Our guide, Sharif, was brilliant, navigating us through the tiny streets of the Kasbah and then the Medina, streets we would not have dared to go down.

In the Kasbah he lead us to the beautifully tranquil old Sultan’s palace, now a museum chronicling the city’s history through Phoenician and Roman times to the 19th century.

We left the Kasbah via the rather beautiful Punishment Gate and into the brightly painted and muraled streets of the Medina where we bumped into some free range chickens!

In the heart of the Medina we found stalls selling bread, chillies, dates and, of course, tangerines. One of the highlights was being taken into the public oven where women took their bread and pastries ready to be baked. How they worked out which were theirs when they returned later we are not sure!

In the indoor market we found herbs and spices, cheese sellers and olive stalls. It was good timing as we had run out of cumin on Pintail.

Outside the Medina in the more open streets and squares were yet more women selling their wares as well as handicraft stalls.

Sharif was very tolerant of our constant questions about society, politics and religion and very knowledgeable about his home city and his neighbours. Everyone seemed to know him, stopping to chat to him as we followed him around. We learned about Tangier’s role as an International Zone during the world wars, its attraction to artists and musician like Matisse and the Rolling Stones and its willingness to embrace its Jewish and Christian inhabitants.

Although we didn’t buy any of his carpets we had a great chat with a carpet seller about modern life in Morocco. It seems that teenagers everywhere prefer being plugged into their electronic devices and show little interest in pursuing the traditional crafts and professions of their parents. We were exhausted after 4 hours with Sharif so refuelled with some delicious local sweets.

Before we got back on the ferry home we sat and watched the locals go fishing, risking life and limb climbing over the groins and in complete defiance of signs forbidding them!

We thoroughly enjoyed our little taste of Morocco and definitely recommend Tangier. Ignore everything the guidebooks say. Its people are very friendly and welcoming and its streets feel very safe. A wonderfully different world to get to know.

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