Posts Tagged Europe

Tangier, Morocco

Tangier, Morocco

Crossing the Straits of Gibraltar only took 40 minutes on the fast ferry. The infamous Rock of Gibraltar watched us leave Spain, wondering why we didn’t come visit him. It would count as another country for us and has some great history but we decided to bypass it because of the hassle and dangers. We saw and talked to fellow travelers that had been attacked, had things stolen and bitten by packs of roving wild monkeys. One couple in Spain had deep swollen bites on their arms and backs!

Leaving Europe behind the ferry pulled up to the shores of Africa. I could feel the pulse of history as we walked out of the Mediterranean sea and into a sea of touts/guides, yelling “Hotel” and “Taxi” in 7 languages. We walk behind a large group of Spanish day tourists and as soon as they are engaged by the Guides, Tamara and I break right, slipping past the bustle. We head away from the modern part of the City and up into the old city.

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Our goal is the Hotel Continental, a magnet to adventurers and literati of the past. Hemmingway, Kerouac, William Burroughs, Degas, Churchill, Tennessee Williams and Paul Bowles were just a few of its guests throughout its 130+ year service. During the passing decades, the splendor has faded with the advent of electricity, air conditioning and telephones. Our $40 room is has 15 foot ceilings and a view of the Mediterranean from a tiny deck. Dusty paintings hang above worn grand furniture and brass antiques.

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The sweltering heat attempts to hold us hostage in the hotel but we escape up into the coolness of the maze-like Medina (old city) just behind the hotel. We explore the narrow walkways wind back and forth until we get to the famous Kasbah, which is just the older part of the old part of an ancient city. Most of the shops are closed because of the annual Muslim observance of Ramadan. During this month long celebration, they are not allowed to eat or drink (unless ill or pregnant) during the daylight hours. Tomorrow is the end of Ramadan and you can see it in the urgent but happy eyes of the locals. Some of the locals wear jeans but others wear traditional robes and beards. We pass many playing children walking with their mothers dressed up like Mummies. Some of the women wear long dresses that cover everything but their gloved hands and small slits for eyes. They drift slowly and unhurriedly down the paths, sneaking looks at Tamara. With as many tourists that dress in shorts, tank tops and less, Tamara with her modest clothes is met with smiles and polite greetings from many of the Muslim women.

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The next day we hire a guide to help us explore some of the deeper aspects of the Kasbah. We ask him endless questions and he explains about the people that live in what used to be known as the end of the civilized world.

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Our Guide is dressed in cream linen robes and pointy banana colored shoes. He says that Ramadan has ended and the entire country will be celebrating. Happy families dressed up walk along with us visiting other homes. Their colorful dress and large smiles urge us to take photos but we resist so as to not upset them. We are lead past tiny shared homes, ancient tombs, forgotten cannons and communal bakeries where they bake the neighborhood’s dough in wood fired ovens hundreds of years old.

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Five times a day the melodic wailing of the prayer sounds, calling Muslims to pray. The guide says that most of the faithful don’t understand the religion but worship out of habit and peer pressure. What he explained really seemed to parallel to the fading Christian religions of the western world.

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Our second day we move from the wonderfully musty hotel to a Riad (Middle East for a Bed and Breakfast) named La Tangerina. The rooms are small and simple but extremely nice. Afternoon tea is served on the roof top terrace overlooking the Mediterranean. It was a nice break from the hustle and bustle, giving Tamara time to knit and me time to write up our experiences.

Later that night we had an authentic 3 course Moroccan dinner on the terrace, complete with steamed beef and onions, vegetables cooked in strange spices and an interesting fruit salad. Afterward, we walked around the deserted Kasbah alleyways (the locals were celebrating the Ramadan feast) until we freaked ourselves out and rushed back to the safety of the Riad. What a great day!

Quick fact; Tangerine means – From Tangiers.

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