|Austin on the ferry from Algeciras to Tangier.|
|Roofs of Tangier with satellite dishes for TV.|
|Austin in front of a door, upper Kasbah, Tangier.|
|Advertising from the early 1970s, when Tangier hoped it would be a "jet set" destination.|
|Babouche -- the universal shoe of Morocco.|
|Outside the old walls of the Kasbah.|
|Cats everywhere. They are often fed, pregnant 100 percent of their lives.|
|Moms and kids are the same everywhere.|
|Big-eyed red fish in the market. Not sure the species.|
|Austin and I in front of the house I lived in as a kid -- now for sale.|
|Another roof scene.|
|Typical scene -- woman and child and gate to the old medina.|
|Sign at the main Bab, or gate, of the Kasbah.|
|Typical market scene.|
|A narrow street in Tangier is a wide street in Fes!|
|Local dog. No collar does not mean it is not owned or fed.|
|A child playing on the stairs off a small street.|
|A vegetable stall. Pictures of things are less intrusive than pictures of people!|
|Massive red fish with teeth in fish market.|
More typical tourist pictures, this time from Tangier, Morocco.
Austin and I took the ferry from Algeciras, Spain to Tangier and I was a bit surprised to find out we were the only walk-ons; everyone else was in a vehicle. Almost everyone on board was a Moroccan returning from Spain or France, and a few prayed on board. Nothing too dramatic other than several of the young men on board had longish beards and the demeanor of Pakistanis, and it occurred to me that these Moroccans were a byproduct of the mosques in Europe. Most Moroccan men do not have beards, and most Moroccan women do not wear veils. These young men were aping Pakistani fundamentalism taught to them in the Saudi-funded cross-polinated mosques and madrassas of Europe. Thankfully, that was about the last I saw of this kinds of thing -- it was not much in evidence in Morocco proper.
Getting off board in Tangier was a bit of a shock as Tangier was nowhere to be seen. Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot?! It turns out that Mohamed VI, the King of Morocco (he took over from his father, Hassan II, about 12 years ago) has built a series of commercial ports around Tangier, and the one we pulled into was 35 kilometers from town. Yow!
The taxi ride to Tangier was actually quite good -- Austin and I both got to see a little of the countryside, and I could point out the Berber women going to market in their distinctive hats with brims supported by four, thick, rope-like strands of colorful yarn. Austin could also see construction and transportation quite different from what he's used to. "Is that a house?" he would ask pointing to a small crumbling building. Yes, it was, every time. As for the donkeys and mules pulling carts, they were everywhere, and clearly an unremarkable feature of the countryside. He was clearly not in Virginia anymore!
As we got closer to Tangier, it became self-evident that a lot had changed in the last 40 years -- the coast road close to town was packed deep with massive gleaming white offices, hotels, apartment buildings and modern housing developments for foreigners. The taxi cab driver explained it with two words: "Miami Beach," and indeed it looked the part.
Of course, old Tangier remains as it was, and that was where I was going. The cab driver took us to the top of the Kasbah and through the old gate, and our hotel was just a few hundreds yard farther on -- a very nice place that my brother and his kids had stayed at a few months earlier. Our room had windows overlooking the old Medina walls and we could see the fishing boats working their nets close in. A roof top terrace served tea, coffee and orange juice whenever we wanted. Perfect!
Austin and I hit the bricks pretty quickly, and Austin was pretty as he has never been in a city where walls are crumbling, where people are dressed in non-western garb, and where the smell of undevelopment pervades -- a mixture of four-stroke engine exhaust, sweat, washwater tossed into the street, rotting vegetable matter, broken sewer pipe, wool, and fresh donkey shit.
The narrowness of the streets in the old kasbahs and medinas of North Africa is always a bit intimidating, as is the fact that non-Moroccans tend to stand out a bit, and there are always a lot of people jostling about and seething intensity to the whole thing, and sometimes a little resentment too -- tourists may have more money in their pocket than a rural Moroccan is going to see in a year.
The heat and humidity was pretty oppressive -- walk a few miles and you ended up pretty soaked, and the kasbah in Tangier has a lot of up and down as it is built on the side of a steep hill as is a lot of Tangier.
The meat and fish market
It was Ramadan, of course, which means no one could eat, or even drink water despite the heat and no one could smoke either. It does not help that August has some of the longest days of the year, as well as the hottest. By 6:00 pm things in the street felt pretty tense as people scurried to buy food and get home so they could eat when the call from the mosque began.
Austin got sick late in the day on a first day in Tangier -- typical ecoli stuff of the "Montezuma's revenge" variety, but he was OK 18 miserable hours later. It was not going to be an easy night in any case -- a mosque was only a block from our hotel, and the loudspeaker calling us to prayer was aimed right at our room.
The next day I hired a local guy for an hour in order to take us to the old stadium and from there to the house I lived in when I was a kid -- less than a 10 minute walk from our hotel. The house looked very much as it did 40 years ago, only now it was for sale. Our old gardener and cleaning lady, who lived in the basement of the house and conveyed with it when we rented it, had died, but their now-adult children still lived there, though no one was home when I rang the doorbell.
Austin and I had a rather large lunch in a restaurant, and we went up and down and all over the Kasbah and down to the fishing boats and even to the old "yacht club" where we once had a 24-foot sailboat. Not too many sailboats now, but the fishery looked prosperous and the fish market was groaning with every kind of fish as the straights of Gibraltar is always running rich with tuna, swordfish, sole, shark, and pretty much everything else. Vast parts of the interior of the Mediterranean may be over-fished and decimated from pollution, but Morocco's water are cleans by the Atlantic.
All in all, and despite Austin's bout with the flu, I had a great time in Tangier, and though Austin was a little dubious of North Africa (he like London, Paris, and Madrid more), it is a place he will remember as it was far outside his comfort zone.
Wait until Fes, I thought. There's a city that's even outside my comfort zone!