Thursday was a crazy day. We took a day trip to Tangier, Morocco.
Where do I even start to describe Tangier? Contrasts, craziness, chaos, comfort, cats, cats, cats. I think the best way is to just walk through our day, and through Tangier as well. Our day started when my Google assistant woke us at 5:30. We needed to board the bus from Cadiz to Tarifa at 7:00, so we could connect with the ferry from Tarifa to Tangier at 9:00.
It was a sleepy, bleary-eyed ride, and I was surprised at all the windfarms as we neared Tarifa.
We arrived at the ferry port a little late, and had to rush to board the boat. Passport control was right on the ferry, so getting out of Spain was painless. The harbor master escorted us out to sea, then sped away for the next trip, or maybe just to have coffee.
Here’s how Tarifa looked as we left.
Mary settled in comfortably for the ride, checking out the slots and having breakfast.
The ride was smooth, comfortable, and short.
First time in Africa. woo hoo!
We passed through border control into Morocco easily. Our guide for the day introduced himself, and off we went.
Tangier is a crossroads city, and he spoke five languages, including fluent and contemporary American English. (He called himself the Eddie Murphy of guides.) He was working on Chinese, anticipating the next wave of tourists. We told him we were from New York, and maybe that was our first mistake. The name “New York” conjures up powerful ideas and images and, unlike in the USA, the magic persists even when you mention “upstate.”
There weren’t many people on the streets in our initial walk through the city.
But how often do you see “Kasbah” on street signs?
We did attract our first persistent street vendor, though, a beautiful girl of about 8, who should have been playing with dolls, toys and friends, but was instead learning the art of the street hustle. Somehow, she remained remarkably innocent and angelic. I didn’t take her picture, but I can still see her clearly.
We saw plenty of clean, cool, white buildings, like the white villages, but with a Moorish flavor.
But, in most places, the streets were grittier, and more interesting.
There were people going about their daily activities, and open shops here and there, many very small, like the shoe or tailor shops, just one room with a single craftsman working inside.
People were dressed for the uncommonly cool and cloudy day.
Our guide told us that the Spanish people love their dogs (“perros”), but the Muslims predominant in Tangier see dogs as dirty animals. They love cats. I know some of my family and friends reading this blog also love cats, so, here are a few of the cats of Kasbah.
The quiet streets we were walking soon changed completely, because Thursday is a “market day,” which draws people from the country-side to claim a patch of the street to sell produce of all kinds.
The streets become crowded. You walk a few steps and stop to let someone by, then someone lets you by, and you walk a few steps more. Eventually you reach the actual market, where vendors have stalls and not just pavement.
By now, I had no idea what to expect next. I love markets, but this sprawling, chaotic, maze of streets and languages and live chickens and, and, and, and……what next?
The fish market, of course.
Here’s what’s different about this one: it’s impossible not to make contact with fish. You can’t just look. At some point, some part of you or your clothing will make contact with fish.
There was something strange and wonderful about this massive crowd of people in this narrow maze of pathways. I’m very conscious of my personal space, and I hate to be elbowed, jostled, or pushed. None of those things happened in the market. I felt that my space was well respected, and I also noticed that the sellers of produce spread out in the street had their space respected. I don’t know whether this courtesy is cultural or religious, but to me it was one of the most amazing and enjoyable aspects of the experience.
In my next post I’ll describe a very different experience we endured later in the day…
I’ll end with one more photo to appease the cat people.