We came here because Doug was sick as a
doug dog in Chefchaouen and we needed to go somewhere less strenuous than our previous intended destination, which was the freaking southern desert area. Camels and Bedouin and all. Not good when you’re ill. Especially not good when it’s both summer and Ramadan. Because, well, 50 degree heat, camel trekking, tummy bugs and fasting don’t mix well, especially in more traditional parts of the country where you mightn’t even be able to find water before sundown.
It’s been hard enough here in Tangier.
Tangier was a surprise. The guidebooks and forums and websites we read all screamed beware. Lots of virtual fluttery jazz hands shooed us away, citing touts and noise and annoyance. Tales of people taking the ferry down from Spain, alighting, recoiling, and dashing back to the safety of their tapas y vino.
Not us, no.
As we drove into town, we both looked at each other and nodded. Something was just right about this place. I speculated about real estate prices. We decided, spontaneously, that we’d stay a week rather than 3 nights. We were meant to be here.
Tangier is an interesting city. It’s not necessarily a pretty city. Chefchaouen was pretty. Chefchaouen wasn’t, however, fascinating. Tangier feels open, a bit rougher around the edges, lived in, comfortable in its own skin.
There are tourists here- mostly day trippers going somewhere else– but the Tangerines carry on for the most part as if we weren’t here. We have been hassled a lot less here than in Fes or even in Chefchaouen. Most of the shops are for locals rather than tourists. The twice weekly Berber ladies’ veggie market is for locals, not tourists. Night time stalls of dates, fresh cheese, juice boxes and rounds of bread are there for the Ramadan fasters, not tourists.
Ramadan is still a big hurdle for us, even here where it’s a bit more open. It’s been a struggle to find anywhere to eat before 8pm, or even 9pm sometimes. Some places never open at all. A lot of the places serving Moroccan cuisine are simply shut for the month.
If I don’t get back to Shanghai at least 5kg lighter, I’ll be shocked. I’ve spent a lot of time on this trip walking long distances on a very empty, rumbling stomach with parched lips.
It builds character, I suppose.
Anyway. I’m supposed to make you jealous here.
Let me try.
[In case you were interested, all my other Morocco posts are here, conveniently compiled in one handy location. Casablanca, Meknes, Fes and Chefchaouen so far]
Casa D’Italia, below, is very, very hidden. It’s tucked away in the backstreets, behind the Italian consulate, behind a gate that was closed until 8pm so we missed it the first ten times we circled the block, our tummies rumbling. It was lovely though. Real Italian cooking, with real Italian chefs, all part of a club affiliated with the consulate.
They have prosciutto. They have wine.
We have gone twice already and will go back again tonight. You have no idea how lovely it was to find them after weeks of long, hot, parched, hungry days.
We also took a little side trip out to a place past the airport, about 100-150 dirhams (10-15 euro) by petit taxi each way. Chez Abdou is a seafood barbecue place on the beach- sprawling, pastel, open to the breezes, open to the beach itself.
Also, it’s open 365 days of the year (reportedly) and, importantly, is open during Ramadan during the day. And they have booze.
Back in Tangier, we found a few places to stop and rest during the day. Not many. I had wanted to do a Tour de Beat Poets (as they all seemed to live here at one point or another) but most of the places were closed for the month.
Our lovely guesthouse has been a haven. They are Dar Jand. Write that down. They’re in the medina, overlooking the port. They have a rooftop terrace. They make beautiful breakfasts for you to eat on aforementioned terrace. In the evening, discretely, you can sip wine in the lantern-lit darkness up there, listening to the Sufis singing, looking out at the moon shining down on the winding tangled lanes of the medina.
And just up the hill (technically a staircase), there’s the Bab Haha gate leading out of the medina and into the casbah.
Outside of the medina, the newer bits of Tangier spread out along the Corniche and fan out in white, well-flowered low rise suburbs. If you’ve ever been to Turkey, it feels like the unexpected offspring between Fatih and Kadikoy/Moda in Istanbul, with an unexpected dose of Izmir thrown in for good measure.
Today we took a petit taxi out to les grottes d’Hercule (Hercule’s Grotto) and checked out the edge of the world. Normally it would cost 25-30 dirhams using the meter but Ramadan bumped the price up to 70, no meter. We went through a dozen taxis before we even got that price.
We walked the 5km or so from there to Cap Spartel, along the sea road, stopping at Achakar beach to cool down.
Everything was deserted for Ramadan. We had the beaches to ourselves. It was beautiful.
Mind you, the lone restaurant at the Cap was, contrary to reports otherwise, shut for Ramadan and we couldn’t even buy water after our 2 hour hike in the midday sun.
‘I’d sell you water if I could,’ we were told, ‘but I’d get in trouble with my boss.’
There were also no taxis (like I said, everything shuts down…) so one of the waiters at the closed restaurant (who was getting it tidied for that evening’s iftar) called someone to take us back for 100 dirham. We ended up in the backseat of a car, with two young Moroccan guys who were heading into Tangier. They dropped us off at McDonalds, one of the few places in town where you could buy food and drink before sunset. A flat, watery Coke never tasted so good.
I suppose I can’t expect you to be jealous of that.
Let’s try for Hercules’ grotto, for starters.
And might I add, the ocean was wonderful.