Place #4: A Day in Tangiers and Morocco, North Africa
Camel Rides in Morocco
From Marbella,Spain, Macrine and I joined a one day tour to Tangier, Morocco, North Africa as part of our vacation in Costa del Sol in October, 2000. With this visit we could claim that we have been to the Continent of Africa. It was a beautifully organized tour and is described below by a writer from the Spanish tourism department:
"From the most southern point of Spain (Tarifa), Morocco is only 14 kilometers away. On most days you can see the mountains at the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar very clearly, and at night you see the lights of the houses. Being so close to Spain, Morocco Tourism is very tempting. Especially because it’s not only another country, but even another continent.
There are several options to a Morocco Tourism visit, one of them is booking a daytrip from Tarifa to Tangier( this is the one we took). There are two excursions to Tangier every day, starting at 9am and 11.00am, and cost 56 euro (ferry, guide, bus and lunch included). Tickets are sold at the office of FRS or at Marruecotur, both near the Paseo de la Alameda in the centre of Tarifa. The excursion starts in the port of Tarifa. Here you cross the Spanish border and get on the boat, a fast ferry that brings you in 35 minutes to Tangier. As there is a time difference between Morocco and Spain of 2 hours (in summer), you arrive in Morocco either around 7.45am or 9.45am.
Morocco Tourism for the first time is quite impressive. Not so much because of the beauty of the landscape (the skyline of Tangier is not very special), but more for the complete different culture and language. There are two different ideas about the origins of Tangier, the Berber and the Greek. According to the Berber legend, Tangier was founded following the return of a dove from the Arch of Noah with soil in its claws, indicating that there was a new world – Tanja in Berber language. The Greek version states that Tangier derives from the name “Tingi”, daughter of the giant Anthee. For the ancient Greek authors Tangier was “the most beautiful city of the known world, a region of gods where the men are the tallest and most beautiful that one can find.” If this is (still) true, you have to decide for yourself. Because of its geographical situation Tangier has always been the door to Africa. For a long time it used to be an important international meeting point, until it became stronger attached to Morocco".
"Once you have arrived in Morocco, a bus drives you from the port to the old town. The old town is surprisingly similar to a lot of old towns in Andalucian cities. At the entrance there is an old arc, after which you find a labyrinth of small streets, small houses, ancient buildings, a castle and small typical shops. Most of the shops appear to be there for tourists only, during the tour you’ll visit some of them. The shop owners are not too shy to sell you all their merchandise on the streets, of course for “a very special price” (which drops rapidly if you don’t show any interest). Also included in the tour is a lunch in a traditional Moroccan restaurant. They serve traditional food and at the end you’ll get a traditional Moroccan tea. It´s questionable if it´s really a traditional restaurant, as it seems to run on tourists only, but at least the food is good".
"After a stroll through the old town, you get a chance to have a look at the new town. This part of Tangier appears to be quite modern, with big buildings, broad streets and larger, more modern shops. A visit to the outskirts of Tangier is included as well. Big houses with big fences dominate the scene, so probably the rich are living here. You also get the opportunity to ride a camel, on payment of a few euros. The whole tour takes about 7 hours".
Personal Note: Walking on the narrow cobblestone streets of the Medina (Old Town) in Tangier was not easy. Street peddlers hustle you all day. They sell all kinds of trinkets that will challenge even an experienced bargain hunter like me. However, I had my good buy of the day on this tour. I saw a mineral stone ( similar to the one you see in the Smithsonian museum in Washington, DC) that aroused my attention. The asking price was 3000 pesetas. I bargained 500 pesetas. As expected I received a groaning response from the peddler( a man in his late 20's) that I am too cheap and should be ashamed for bargaining too low. I just smile and ignored him. The peddler keep up on following me until lunch time when the price went down to 2000 pesetas. I said no and stuck to my original bargain. I totally forgot about this haggling episode, when out of no where the peddler accosted me again and lowered the price to 1000 pesetas. I said no deal until the price went down to 700 pesetas. Three hours later as I was stepping on the bus on our way home, the peddler gave up. He gave the mineral stone to me as I handed him the 500 pesetas from the window of the bus. I certainly had a grand time in this haggling process.
We did visit a carpet shop, but I was not in the mode of bargaining. In addition if we buy a carpet, it will be bulky to carry around, although they can shipped your purchase to the US with a ridiculously high fees.
Macrine on the other hand is not a bargain hunter or haggler. Her best purchase was what they called the "Moroccan Gold". It is the most expensive spice in the world.
It is SAFFRON. The powder looks light reddish brown, but when you add water it turns yellow, just like the color of TUMERIC, another spice. You need only a very small amount for cooking paella and other Spanish or Filipino dishes like the ginat-an na manok sa gata (chicken in coconut milk) of Marinduque-one of my favorite Filipino dish. Saffron is very expensive, so most cooks used a cheaper substitute, the TUMERIC or "dilaw" in Marinduque.
A snake Charmer in Action
Note: This is No.4 ( Part 2) of a series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.
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