For me, the most memorable part of my all-too-short visit to Tangiers was wandering through the Medina – the old city, just below the Kasbah. In my last post, I talked about our guide, Aziz. If I had been trying to find my way through alone, I would certainly have got horrendously lost – normally a fun part of exploring a new city, but when you’ve only got a day, with lots to see and learn, not ideal. But as it was, Aziz knows these labyrinthine streets and took us up steps, around corners, and under archways. We saw the real Tangiers, which is a third-world city without running water in some homes, with refuse on the streets, and with a vital sense of life. As I said in a previous post, this is my first time in a developing country in over a decade, so I was looking through newly naive eyes.
When I mentioned to a very well-travelled, highly-experienced photographer friend that I was going to Tangiers, and asked what advice would she give me – especially in case of not-ideal climatic conditions (it rained) – she just said “colour”. Only showers, as it happened, but those zingy colours can’t be suppressed by a light downpour – houses, spices, clothes (not the djellaba, the long hooded kaftan, which we only saw in earth tones – white, grey, brown or black).
We were lucky enough to be in Tangiers on a Sunday, when the Berber market takes place. Berbers are the native people of Morocco, before the Arabs arrived; they’re nomadic, tribal people. They come into the city – mostly women, but men too – bringing their fruit, vegetables, milk, cheese and eggs (and even live chickens, too) to sell on the pavement next to St Andrew’s Church, by the Grand Socco, on Sunday mornings.
Some handy tips for visiting Tangiers
One euro = around 11 dhirams. Most places accept euros, but give change in dhirams.
Some Moroccan women don’t like being photographed; I tried to avoid capturing their faces.
Alcohol is served, but discreetly, as Morocco is a liberal Islamic country – mostly in tourist hotels, and smarter bars and restaurants.
Kif (marijuana) smoking is tolerated for Moroccans, and very popular among the young, but illegal (if also popular) for tourists. Beware.
In future posts, I’ll be looking at Tangiers in artistic, musical, cinematic and literary terms, as well as telling you about the trip I took out of the city to the coast.