Tarifa was barely awake when we set out to find a quick breakfast before boarding the 35 minute ferry to Tangier. The ferry driver must have been keeping a Spanish schedule because it was almost 50 minutes until we arrived at the African port. I’m happy to say my weak stomach held up quite well through the ebb and flow. But, we made the big mistake of not getting our passport stamped on board. The announcement was very unclear and there was not sign informing us what this must be done on the boat. So after a bit of a stall we were finally off to find out hotel, new passport stamp in hand.
As this was my first time in Africa I didn’t know what to expect, but the town was like most cities, just a bit rundown and seemed to be in constant repair. The harder part of the journey was not finding the location of our hotel through the flurry of ornate Arabic writing, but fending off the many locals who wanted to “help us” find our way – first leading us into the entry instead of the exit from the dock, then trying to get us to take a cab, then trying to be our personal tour guide. I find it so distasteful to be bothering in this way continually, but such was life in Africa and there would be some getting used to.
We began to explore the outskirts of the Medina by first visiting Mendoubia Gardens. This was not the kind of park I was used to, as it was mostly concrete and clearly unkempt. For a tourist local this was definitely not the best-of-the-best. We scaled a short staircase to see the above monument (Mohammed V’s plea for Independence), the only portion of the park worth visiting, and admire the elegant script chiseled into the stone.
The Grand Bazaar in Turkey could not have prepared me for entering the Medina. The streets were narrow, crowded, and filthy. With vendors selling everything from a pack of tissues to one knock-off baseball cap and chocolate both inside stores and stall and merely on the sidewalk space. It was a wonder that we didn’t get hit by the speeding cars snaking their way through this maze at top speed, startling unsuspecting pedestrians as they cruised by.
One our way to the Kasbah Museum we noticed this amazing vista through a crumbling arch way at the highest point in the Kasbah. The coastline featured some of the bluest water I have ever seen, as well as signs of progress in rebuilding this city. What the photograph doesn’t capture is the mounts of rubble and trash on the side of the look-out point. Left behind by builders and added to by uncaring locals. It was heart breaking to see and I wished for some community efforts that would work on sanitation, clean-up, and beautification of this area.
I might have missed this sight if AG didn’t have the foresight to look up. While photography was not permitted in the Kasbah Museum itself. This anterior room filled with a large unused chest featured this intricate ceiling. How stunning! It made the museum visit well worth it, I can’t even remember what else was inside.
The inner courtyard of the museum also boasted rich architecture, with stunning Tudor archways, painted with golden, green and red accents. The center has a water feature dwarfed by the size of the courtyard and unfortunately not active while we were in the building (probably due to our off-season visit).
After a lot more walking and exploring, we continued our tradition of siesta at our hotel (or at least I did, in a allergy induced slumber). The views from our hotel made it seem like we were actually in a paradise, with giant palm trees lining the beach and crystal clear water, from inside here, it was a whole different world.
After failing to get into a few recommended restaurants from our guidebooks (they were closed or missing…) we decided on a TripAdvisor.com recommendation called Art et Gourmet. All of the menus were adhered on the back on painted canvases. Adding to the appeal of this restaurant overlooking the Grand Socco. The food was spectacular, the best we would have in Morocco. Seemingly indicating many good meals ahead. It was a bit pricey for Tangier, but well worth the deliciousness.