Tangier Medina, Morocco….continued

As I left off in my last blog….we were left with our “guide’s brother” at the entrance of the Medina (old city center) of Tangier, Morocco, and about to begin our walking tour. I was so excited and stimulated by the Medina and couldn’t wait to experience a world I’ve read about and finally was about to enter. I grew up watching “I Dream of Jeannie” and always fantasized about the what the authentic, ancient Arabic world must be like and now I was about to find out for myself.

http://wikitravel.org/en/Tangier

The brother, who’s name I don’t recall, spoke English well and was a very brisk walker- so brisk that at times, I was convinced that he meant to lose us- not evident in the photo below.

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The energy in this very compact and bustling neighborhood was palpable; there was so much life crammed into ancient buildings: walking, biking, hawking, children playing… within the sprawling corridors/streets (which were only the width of a large man’s shoulders), at some points of entry/egress. Everywhere you looked, there were stores/shops which were barely the size of a person’s closet. The scents and sounds of the Medina were alive with intensity and seemed to be throbbing. There were foods and spices for sale in open containers buzzing with flies.

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There were dry cleaners, women’s clothing stores (only burkas) People’s eyes followed you constantly…leaving one feeling under constant scrutiny…which is a bit unnerving. Now, it’s a given that we, as westerners, we were targets for everyone with something to sell; we maintained a watchful diligence throughout the Medina and wanted to learn as much as we could about our surroundings, while maintaining safety. The feeling was electric….even a bit frightening, as we were completely out of our element, unable to communicate in Arabic, our whereabouts were unknown to anyone who knew us and lost from time to time- again, due to the gait of our guide.

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The above photograph was taken of a man awaiting his dry cleaning within the medina.

There were two times, during which we were encouraged to shop and at which times our guide refused to move on in the tour UNTIL we shopped. I was pretty much forced to buy Argan Oil, which I would have happily purchased, but not at force. By the way, upon my return to Gibraltar, I promptly threw the Argan Oil away, due to the salesmen’s’ forceful approach.

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The second shop was a four-storied carpet store, into which our guide and his friend insisted we enter and preview all of the various showrooms in all four floors. The front door of the store was vividly painted and beautiful. Thankfully, we didn’t have to buy a carpet…as then, we’d be forced to cart it through customs….a story I’ll describe in my next blog.

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Normally, I’d LOVE to enter a store and shop, but not while  in such a vulnerable situation….I was convinced that this might not be a good idea. We entered a dark and moldy store which contained stunning carpets, if not a bit humid. At this time, I was bit concerned for our well-being, as no one knew where we were and our phones we not working. We pushed on further and upward into the store until we were guided to the roof. Sunlight! In the distance, we found the port and the ferry departing…. The view was spectacular; it was interesting to see all of the daily life of the citizens of the Medina on display. There were families eating on the rooftops, women doing laundry and cleaning, men sitting and reading….life. Finally, after many photos were taken, we were shown the door at the bottom of four staircases.

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We then asked to be escorted out of the medina and taken back to the other guide- the driving brother and driven to the port so that we could return to Spain. Our appetite for lunch was lost due to the sanitation (or lack thereof) of all of the food stalls and we were ready for our Morocco tour to end for the day….

More soon…..thank you for following:)

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