Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Lost in Tangier

Tangier ferry
Ferry to Tangier

Medina Tangier
Tangier medina
It's easy to get lost in Tangier's ancient medina with its cheap hotels, small shops, cafes and other lost souls wandering around, but it was going to be a helluva lot cheaper than Spain. Although I loved traveling down the east coast of Spain, it decimated my bank account, so it was with relief that I gladly stepped on to the ferry in Algeciras bound for Tangier.

After I disembarked, a Moroccan woman from immigration approached me with a thermometer and wanted to check my temperature - evidently another disease was being exported around the world from Canada - swine flu. I told her I hadn't been back to Canada for years and she needn't bother with the thermometer. 'Oh, I’m fine,' I said waving my hand, and to my surprise she grinned and walked away. As I gazed around the streets outside the terminal, a grubby fellow with a pronounced limp came over and stood beside me. His dirty hair was tangled and hung down his back. 'Need hotel?' He was okay even though he was caked in grime and I was just too tired to argue, so I stumbled along behind him as he carried my bag up the long flight of stone steps into the medina.

The Maarifa Hostel Tangier
Maarifa Hostel
The narrow alleyways were jammed with people of every color and shade, mostly men, and it reeked of wet garbage and smoke. Mounds of rotting debris dotted with filthy cats were heaped in the outside corners and I held my breath as I wondered where the hell Abdul was taking me, but I was too interested to stop him. It was a real mix of people, but then Tangier is full of sub-Saharan migrants looking to fulfill their dream of work as they struggle to find relief from their endless suffering and if possible, steal over to Spain. They live crammed together in trashed-out apartment blocks in the suburbs of Boukhalef.

Abdul took me to a place which was a total dump, but given the surroundings it looked like the best of the lot. I'll figure it all out tomorrow, I thought. I gave him 30 dirhams, which I realized later was probably too much but what the hell, he helped me out. I was also overcharged for the hotel. It seems I always pay too much for everything when I first arrive in a country.

I stayed for one night in the Maarifa then cleared out to the Marmosa Hotel, which was clean and only ten dollars a night, but not before being propositioned at another hotel by an over-eager Moroccan who grabbed my ass and said 'Sex? Spend night together?' No thanks. I guessed it was the off-season for young British tourists.

In my hotel room I opened the window and gazed to the cafe out across the alley. A dozen men sat in plastic chairs and smoked shisha from colorful hookahs while watching a television show that was about 50 decibels too loud. I sighed and closed the window again. Little did I know what a helluva ride Morocco would be.