Into the Dark Continent: Morocco Part 2

Tangier Travel Blog

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A public square in Tanger

Before I get to the tour, let me talk about the taxis and roadways in Tanger. First of all, the taxis are miniscule! The remind me of the old school Volkswagen Rabbits or something. Anyway. They’re all painted the same, and all driven by madmen! Actually, I think that you have to qualify as legally insane to drive in Morocco. LOL! Street signs appear to be decorations, and painted lane lines appear to be mere guidelines. There was no rhyme or reason for how they drove. Drive in their own lane? Maybe. In the middle of the road? Probably. Parking in the center of the street? No problem! Pedestrians beware! You are just a moving target at best, an annoying road bump at worst! I’ve been on crazy cab rides before…the worst have been the reckless cabbies in New York or the kamikaze cabbies in London.

The public watering hole
Oh no! I had to completely reframe how I think of those guys. Compared to the cabbies in Morocco, they are overly-cautious, conscious drivers that deserve medals of honor for taking the utmost care of their tender human cargo.

 

And now back to the story…

 

Marginally better (in spirits anyway), we met our guy. First things first, he flagged down a taxi and told the driver to take us to the pharmacy. Our guide waited outside, while Zak and I went into the pharmacy.

Us on a roof in front of the Kasbah
Still hindered by my unilingual handicap, I wasn’t really sure how to tell the pharmacist what I wanted. Again, he only spoke Arabic and French, and I ended up having to pantomime what was wrong and hope that the words “decongestant” and “expectorant” didn’t get lost in translation. The pharmacist handed me a handful of bottles. Skimming the ingredients, which thankfully are universal, I saw that he’d given me a codeine cough syrup and an antihistamine that he pantomimed would make me sleepy. I quickly refused both. Codeine makes my IQ drop a couple standard deviations, and I have serious drowsiness when I take benedryl. There was no way I was taking this combo when I had a country to explore! We finally inspected a few more labels (hey! Who says Latin isn’t helpful? It was close enough to French that I actually understood most of it!), and I was able to find something with pseudoephedrine in it and another with an expectorant in it. Thanking him profusely, we paid and left the store. After partaking of my mysterious Morrocan meds, I felt like a new woman! The stuff must’ve been prescription-strength or something because I felt inifinitely better in about 20 minutes.

 

Our guide took us back to into the Medina, pointing out highlights, telling us the history, and giving us time to actually look around and appreciate what we were seeing. We took tons of pics. And since Zak’s a pastry chef, he even went out of his way to make sure we hit a bakery or two. And man, oh man! We had some fantastic little pastries! I have no idea what they were (aside from divine!) but I could’ve eaten my weight in them. They were these little finger-food pastries. Golden, crusty phyllo dough encompassed chicken minced with spices and cinnamon. The whole thing was dusted with powdered sugar. It was savory and sweet; crunchy and chewy! This lovely little delightful combination of contrasting and unique flavors was so mouth-watering I could’ve died happy right there!!

 

After our little jaunt into the bakeries, our guide took us to his brother’s shop.

One of the bakeries
Like riding camels, I’m pretty sure there’s some law about leaving the country without buying a rug! ;-) He graciously served us hot Moroccan mint tea and tutored us extensively on the symbolism and history of the Moroccan rugs and the people who make them. He gauged our preferences, craftily selecting the most fitting rugs based on a combination of assumption, experience, and clues gleaned from our own story telling. He was a sly one! We bargained and pleaded disinterest. He implored us with talk of sacrifice and investment. In truth, we were genuinely uninterested in buying a rug, but there was one that we very nearly came home with…somewhere between admiring the vast intricacies of the silk knotting and his passionate supplications, we nearly caved. Our guide’s brother was indeed a great salesperson. Sly, manipulative, and absolutely wonderful at his job.

 

In the end, we walked away…several times.

The Marvelous Little Pastry
Each time, he called us back and counter-offered. He cornered my husband, pulling on his heart-strings and whispered of glory in forfeiting a little worthless American money in order to make my heart sing and invest in our future. I laugh now thinking about it. How convincing he was; how utterly determined that the way to crack two naïve tourists was to persuade my husband to open his pocket-book and finally give his beloved wife the rug of her dreams! Ha! Poor guy. He tried his damndest, but he obviously didn’t understand the dynamics of our marriage or our genuine disinterest in buying a rug. Little did he know it, but his ploy was doomed from the beginning, and it allowed us to walk away once and for all.

 

Following our educational endeavor into the sophistication of rug-making and the deep mysteries of the salesman, we wound our way through several more shops.

Rug Weavers
Luckily, it was getting later, and the hordes of maddened street-hawkers had diminished significantly. That was probably one of my biggest problems with the Old Town; all the people pushing, nagging, begging, thrusting cheap trinkets at us. I will own that I am very aware of my oh-so-American need for personal space, but this was almost more than I could bare. People touching me and getting in my face provoke a visceral reaction to defend myself. Not to get physically violent, but the invasion of space sends warning signals ricocheting through my mind, leaving me hypervigilant and keyed up throughout the daylight hours when the hawkers were prowling. I’m sure part of it was being sick, but I suspect I would have not enjoyed the crush of complete strangers against my person regardless of the situation.

 

Anyway.

Getting to weave part of a rug that some poor, unsuspecting tourist will buy thinking a little, old Moroccan lady slaved away at it...
The evening hours brought a certain calm to the city. We were able to shop at will, browsing through endless shops and buying a few little souvenirs. Our guide then lead us back to our hotel were we barely noticed the smoky haze or dirty walls. We were tired and satisfied. We ate dinner in the hotel. The food was not good, but it was filling. After dinner, we drowsily made it back to our room, crammed ourselves into one of the pint-sized single beds and went to sleep. It was a wonderful day after all!

 

 

 

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A public square in Tanger
A public square in Tanger
The public watering hole
The public watering hole
Us on a roof in front of the Kasbah
Us on a roof in front of the Kasbah
One of the bakeries
One of the bakeries
The Marvelous Little Pastry
The Marvelous Little Pastry
Rug Weavers
Rug Weavers
Getting to weave part of a rug tha…
Getting to weave part of a rug th…
Stores at night
Stores at night
Port of Tanger at night
Port of Tanger at night
View from our hotel room at night
View from our hotel room at night
Roman Gnomes Moroccan perch
Roman Gnome's Moroccan perch
Tangier
photo by: idiosyncraticJRNYS