I (finally) arrived in Tangier, Morocco on Tuesday, April 2nd, having stopped in Chicago and Madrid. My last leg was on Ryanair, a cheapie. When boarding I was required to stuff my (large) camera into my pack—one bag, strictly enforced! It really didn’t fit but I put some things into my pockets and made do. There were no seat assignments—I could see why everybody lined up 20 minutes before boarding time as everybody had carryon since Ryanair charges 50 euro per checked bag. They also charged for all food and beverages. Still, their fares are low, so that appeals to me!
I taxied from the airport to the parking lot of the Hotel Continental in the Medina (historic walled center with rabbit warrens for streets) as instructed by the hostel. The streets are about 6-8 feet wide and crooked, which the taxi navigated for a couple of blocks. I walked from the parking lot, lurching and jerking a little, but found my hostel, The Melting Pot. It was in an old house (four floors) with nice ambience and pleasant guests.
After getting settled I managed to walk all the way through the Medina to a restaurant recommended by Hamsa, the desk clerk. I couldn’t find it but found another that served wine—not many do in this Muslim country—and had a lovely duck dinner with two glasses of excellent Moroccan red wine.
The next day I again walked through the Medina to the Grand Socco, the big gate and fountain at the entrance to the Medina. I visited St. Andrew’s church, an old Anglican leftover, and stood on Le Terrasse, in front of the pretty police station. Walking around in the Medina was fun—there was lots of local activity as well as quite a few tourists. I stopped for coffee at the Petit Socco, a small plaza that used to be the hangout for druggies, brothels, and other lowlife, but has now been made presentable for the tourists. I visited a good-lookin’ market, running between the raindrops that fell, but didn’t spoil my fun. The touts were out in full force, but I found that if I totally ignored them and had no eye contact with them, they moved on and left me to my own devices.
Tangier, which they spell Tanger, is quite an exotic city. It has a long history of being invaded by everybody because of its strategic location at the entrance to the Mediterranean. From 1912 until 1956 it was an “Interzone” city, (like Berlin during the Cold War) being governed by Italy, Spain, Britain, Portugal, Holland, Belgium, France and the USA. The Beatniks spent some time here Cookie, including your friend Alan Ginsburg, and then when Morocco got its independence in 1956, it was again a part of Morocco.
Thursday I made the rounds of three museums. The first was the American Legation Museum, with the history of Morocco being the first country to recognize the new USA back when. A painter named James McBey painted his servant girl, Zobra—nice. Then on to another that had early photos of Tangier (not so interesting). Next, on to the Casbah, although I had to make do without Charles Boyer. The Casbah was the old sultan’s palace, quite splendid. The Romans were here too, of course, so there was a pretty mosaic floor from the 4th C. AD from Volubilis.
Dinner was in a pretty old palace building. The prix fixe included soup, a briq, (pastry filled with chicken and veggies topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar), chicken with couscous and a pastry, finished off with sweet mint tea.
I enjoyed this hostel. Wednesday night there were an Aussie couple, two German girls, three Canadian girls and I drinking good Moroccan wine and chewing the fat. Thursday night we had two Spanish girls, a Mexican man (from Chihuahua!), and the same two Aussies—more Moroccan red wine!
On Friday the Aussie couple, Chris and Emma, and I got a taxi to the CTM bus station to take a bus—
for me to go to Tetouan, and for them to go to Chefchaquen, where I’ll go after a few days. I couldn’t find a hostel listed for this town, and when I asked the desk clerk at the Melting Pot Hostel for a recommendation, he said that I was the first guest that wanted to go there! Another guest spoke up and said that she had gone there. She had stayed with friends, but recommended the Pension Bilbao, so I decided I would try that when I arrived, which I did.
My room in the Hotel Bilbao has a sink, shower but no toilet (which is across the hall) and hot water only in the mornings unless you ask. I decided I needed badly to do laundry so resolved to do it in cold water. After awhile, the water became hot. Evidently the proprietor heard me running water and turned on the hot! Now, if only my clothes dry during the next three days!
I had lamb tagine for linner (lunch/dinner) along with bean soup, bread and olives (provided) and some ever-good Moroccan red wine. While I was eating the rain stopped and the sun reappeared. This hotel is located on a lovely pedestrian street, which I explored more fully the next day. Before linner I used an internet café—my hotel does not have wifi, nor did the internet café. When I used their computers, I discovered that they had French keyboards, which are somewhat different from ours, which makes typing a little difficult.
The next day I ventured into the Medina, being careful not to become lost, never to be found! It was a beehive of commercial activity with people in traditional dress all the way up to the ‘cool dudes’ with the latest hairstyles. There were a surprising number of jewelry shops, considering that this town gets very few tourists. I visited the Museum of Archeology within the Medina, which mainly concentrated on Roman remains.
Linner that day was mixed seafood with veggies and wine, soup, olives and bread—a satisfactory repast. All the streets are lined with coffee shops. I think the capacity must encompass most of the male population, who sit in the coffee shops much of the day.
This is a charming town—stay tuned—