The call to prayer woke me every morning before six. It was incredibly haunting and exotic. It seemed to go on for a long time and I whispered a little thank you that I didn’t have to get up to go pray or for anything else for that matter. A thoughful start to another day in Tangier.
Yesterday, I walked along the new port and sat for a long while in the sun. There were families and couples walking along the new pier, which was corded off where they were working on a new fountain. The fountain is about a city block long and water shoots straight up from the ground. It’s the kind of place that kids will run through, and probably adults too in the hot summer months.
There is construction all around this new port and it is expected to be completed in 2018. King Mohammad IV has a vision for Tangier to be the gateway to Africa. I learned that on my private tour. Hannan offered a private tour with a taxi, which lasted 2 ½ hours and cost 40 euro. Siad, my driver, was born in Tangier and has lived here most of his life. He lived in London for seven years where he learned to speak perfect English.
He took me along the coast road with the Mediterranean on one side and the medina and Kasbah on the other. He pointed out Malcolm Forbes former home, which was converted to a museum, but now houses guests of the King. Further along is the mansion of the Mayor of Tangier, and further still surrounded by armed guards and beautifully scrolled wrought iron gates is the summer home of King Mohammad VI. The villas surrounding this area are other summer homes of a variety of people, many whom live in other countries. And so it goes all along the upper part past the old medina.
We arrived at one of the most luxurious hotels in Tangier, the Villa Josephine. I strolled around the grounds, which are incredibly beautiful. The gardens surrounding it are lush and tropical and the inside of the Villa stunning.
Afterward, we traveled to Parc Perdicaris, a national park of Morocco. At Cap Spartel, you can see where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean. It is a truly beautiful place.
Not far from there is the Grotto of Hercules.
We drove back a different way than we came so that Siad could show me the poor section of Tangier. We passed lots of villas and new apartments on the way and groups of women looking for taxis. Local city public transportation seems to be non-existent, although there is a bus terminal and train station for longer travel. In the city and all around people use petit taxis for short jaunts, which are very inexpensive (1 or 2 euro for most places around town), or for longer trips grand taxis.
The poor section of town has electricity and running water. The homes were built without licenses but the government looks the other way so that the people can have a higher standard of living than they could provide them. Siad says there is a lot of work in Tangier, but the wages are low, as in all of Morocco.
At the end of the tour, Siad left me near the door into the medina, which leads to the American Legation. The American Legation was the first American consulate in the world and Morocco was the first country to recognize America’s independence after the Revolutionary War. Today the Legation is a museum and learning center.
Back at the hotel, I enjoyed the hammam. The hammam room is all marble and steam. The benches and floor of the room are heated and there is a fountain with running water in the corner. It is quite decadent and exotic. If you go to Morocco, I highly recommend you take advantage of this ancient cultural experience.
At the Café de Paris in another part of town, Ville Nouvelle, I sat feeling as though I had entered yet another world. And in fact, it could be called that. Outside the Medina, but only a 5-minute walk away, there is a modern, international city. The Grand Socco, which separates old from new, is bustling and lively.
Relatively modern, you can find everything you want or need here. The French consulate was across the street from the Café de Paris and I had a lovely time people watching in this busy area. It is a “downtown” area like you would find in most cities, but the signs are in French and Arabic. The waiters at Café de Paris speak perfect English and this is a historic and lovely café.
Nearby are historic monuments with views of the sea, St. Andrews, the Anglican Church, a synagogue, and an Italian Catholic Church. This time of year, Tangier is relatively quiet, with temperatures in the mid 60’s, and only a few tourists. In the summer, I am told it is much different. Cruise ships stop here and let their passengers out for the day. The beaches are brimming with sunbathers, and music concerts abound. I can’t wait to return!
Upcoming blogs will include Food in Tangier, a past vacation to Marrakesh and Surrounding areas, and some of my recent trials and tribulations as we prepare for our pemanent move to Tangier with our two cats. Stay tuned to enjoy the journey.