My son and I took the ferry to Tangier, Morocco, in 2018. The taxi driver drove us from the port to the medina. I had booked a hotel inside the medina. He unloaded our bags and another young man stepped out of a door on the side of the medina wall to meet us. The driver quickly drove away. It didn’t seem right. Once we were inside the walls, I knew it wasn’t right.
The “guide” motioned to follow him and briskly led us down a long, twisting, winding narrow route, dragging our bags behind, in what looked like a residential area—doors but no shops. He told us nothing about where we were, but occasionally looked back to see if we were following. Finally, the lane opened onto a broader area with a few shops and eateries and I spotted the hotel. When I chose this place to stay, I had noted that it was next to an entrance to the medina on the sea side. Our driver and guide had conspired to bring us in a different way, to give some business to his friend, I suspect.
The young man informed us that he was available for further assistance. We said “No, thanks.” But when we emerged from the hotel later, there he was sitting on a bench, waiting for us. We again declined his help and wandered the medina on our own.
We were looking for couscous and found a wonderfully flavorful restaurant in the medina. Moroccan mint tea was the beverage for this trip. After the meal, the waiter brought the check but would not take my credit card. I had to give it to my son to hand to him. And then he returned it to my son, despite knowing that it was my card.
The next morning, we met Maryam, our guide for a day tour around the city. I wasn’t interested in the newer areas of the city, with their sprawling colonial houses and manors, but the traditional places adorned with tile and colored glass caught my eye. We had lunch in an historic restaurant at a beautiful spot, planted as if growing out of the hillside, overlooking the sea.
The Caves of Hercules, on Cape Spartel, the northwestern tip of Africa, just west of Tangier, is the mysterious site of myths and legends. According to Atlas Obscura, one story claims Hercules slept here while on his search for three golden apples, believed to grant immortality to their owner. Another says that the opening to the sea, in the shape of the continent of Africa (kind of), was carved by the Phoenicians.
The confluence of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, the separation between Europe and Africa, is at Cape Spartel. A crossroads of seas and continents.
I had researched the possibility of a camel trek through the desert, but we would have needed at least five days, to get to a starting point and back, as well as a stay in the desert. These few days in Morocco were part of a longer journey and we didn’t have time. But the highlight of the day awaited us, one of the reasons I had chosen this day tour. Maryam took us to a spot along the Atlantic coast, where we mounted camels for a stroll along the beach. Get on your camel while they are seated, then hold on while they stretch their legs to stand. It’s a gentle rolling ride.
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