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21 April 2024
Alan Morris at a cafe in Tangier, Morocco.

Today was the day I made my first visit to Tangier, Morocco & North Africa. Surprisingly after not going to bed until around 5 am after taking photos of the Strait of Gibraltar as we sailed past earlier in the morning, I was up at 7:30 am. I had a quick shower, dressed & went for breakfast before going to the theatre on board the ship where those of us going ashore were given instructions on joining our various tours.

Tangier, Morocco.

I joined my coach & we drove through the streets of Tangier on our way to explore the area. I was surprised by how clean, Tangier was. Everywhere we passed through was spotless & the houses were well-kept & some of the areas looked very affluent. We passed one home high up on the side of the hills overlooking the port which looked fantastic. Our guide told us how it was owned by an Arab prince who had died 4 years previously & who had been a car collector. He had in the garage, a Rolls Royce of which only two were ever made, one he owned & the other was owned by Queen Elizabeth II of England. Since his death 4 years previously, no one had been to the house at all & it is believed he didn't tell any of his family that he owned the property.

Market.

Our first stop of the day was at a small local market where we were quickly shown around a local market. I was impressed by how clean it was & the number of fresh fish & variety of vegetables amongst the birds waiting to be slaughtered and taken away for dinner. At one point our guide asked us if we had noticed that there were no pigeons at the market. He then showed us a stall where the stall holder was skinning the pigeons he had managed to catch & was selling them at around €25 each. We were told that it was a rich person's meal as around 8 were needed to make a decent meal for the family.

Cape Spartel.

Our first stop-off was at   Cape Spartel to see the point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea. The lighthouse there overlooks the waves crashing below onto beautiful beaches. We only stopped briefly but I loved it there & thought it was one of the most beautiful places I have visited.

Caves of Hercules.

Our second stop of the day was a short drive from Cape Spartel to the   Caves of Hercules. Mythological tradition says that Hercules stayed & slept in this cave before doing the 11th of his   12 labours.

We walked down to the entrance to the caves with our tour guide who stopped on the way to give us some tips on buying souvenirs & leather goods in the area. Apparently, the silver the local traders try to sell as silver, is not silver it is pewter. He also made us aware of the leather goods that were being sold there, he told us that they were camel leather, which whilst it looks good, it will have been treated with camel urine. It is fine if kept dry but as soon as it gets wet the stench of the camel urine can be smelt a long way off & will remain for a long time, returning each time it gets wet.

He then introduced us to another guide who lead us down into the Caves of Hercules below. We looked around the cave whilst the guide told us stories of how it was formed & of what it is said that each rock formation represented. The entrance to the caves which the Atlantic crashed through was very impressive, I don't think my photos did it justice. The guide showed us different places in the caves where grain would have been milled previously & he told us of the legend of Hercules & the caves.

I really enjoyed the trip into the caves & thought the local guide was interesting, helpful & humorous so he got a nice tip as we left & walked back to the bus.

Hotel Ahlen.

Our next stop was for refreshments at Hotel Ahlen in Tangier, it was not named after me. The coach pulled up in the hotel car park & everybody got off & went into one of the hotel bars where we were given mint tea & an Almond biscuit/cake. The tea was very nice & the biscuit was beautiful. I had a quick look around the hotel before heading back to the coach. For some reason, I thought the coach was blue & headed towards the wrong coach. I quickly realised my mistake & headed back to the correct coach but it was pulling away without me. Luckily someone saw me & the coach stopped for me & I scrambled to my seat as we pulled away & headed towards the famous Casbah.

The Casbah.

The Casbah is perched on top of a hill overlooking the rest of the city & luckily for me, the coach drove us almost to the top before dropping us off just outside the main entrance. Our guide walked us through the Casbah pointing out many interesting places, including the mosque, which was getting ready for prayer. 

The walk was getting more difficult for me as my legs began to swell up, but I loved walking through the Casbah. As we were coming towards the end of our guided tour we were given an hour to look around ourselves. I sat down at a cafe in the street & was joined by my companion from Finland, we ordered some mint tea & were soon joined by around another dozen people who all had the same idea. The tea was very hot & sweet, it was delicious I will have to look for a recipe for it or ask my friend Rachid for one when I get back to Los Alcazares.

Whilst sitting watching the world go & drinking my tea, I noticed a small sweet shop opposite. It had a glass display container in front of it with people pointing to the sweets they ordered & buying sweets by weight, as we all used to do in sweet shops in the UK. What I noticed that was different from the sweet shops I used in England was the men approaching the stall. They would place their palm face down on the counter & drop some money on the counter. The store owner would pick the money up & quickly place something down in its place, without ever looking up or asking them what they wanted. The item was quickly removed by the person buying the item & put in a pocket before they walked off. At no stage did the store owner talk to the men nor did the men actually ask for anything. Whilst I watched, one man was a bit slower to retrieve his item & it was then that I saw the biggest joint I have ever seen, being picked up from the counter. I am not stupid, I have seen deals like this going on wherever I have been in the world but I have never seen deals like this transacted by using a sweet shop as a cover.

We eventually left the cafe & our guide walked us back through the Casbah & to the coach outside. All the time our guide pointed out interesting spots to us or collected local bread or sweets from shops for us to try. He pointed out one row of buildings that had been used in many films & told us that one film company paid everyone in the town to be an extra in the film even if they weren't in it. It didn't cost the film company much but made sure everyone living there got a little money from it & provided the company with a lot of goodwill from the locals.

Back on MSC Lirica.

After getting back on board the ship, I rested my legs for a while, all the walking had made them swell up a lot & I was in a bit of pain. At dinner time I met Helen & Jean for a drink & then went to the restaurant for dinner at 6:30 pm. After dinner, we walked to the theatre to watch tonight's entertainment but it had been cancelled. In its place, a Spanish guitarist had been brought in to perform, his name was Mariano Miranda. He was fantastic, his playing, his description of each song before he played it & his pure enjoyment of performing was there for everyone to see.

Video of Mariano Miranda playing his guitar.

  My photos from Tangier, Morocco.