Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Semana Santa

Friday morning we drove down to Tarifa, past Gibraltar and Algeciras. We were booked onto the 1pm ferry to Tangier. It is just under 1 hour from home to Tarifa and then 35 mins across the Strait to Tangier. The time-consuming component of the trip is the queuing - first for boarding passes, then through security. So from home to the hotel in Tangier was 4 hours. When we pulled into the port of Tanger I was filled with both excitement and trepidation. I had heard so much about the city's glamorous bohemian past (it used to be known as sin city) but had also listened to so many first-hand tales of drama, frustration and displeasure.

We were advised by Clover to only take a yellow cab, not a blue one. We soon saw why! The blue ones were tiny old Fiats and the drivers were freakishly kamikaze! The yellow cabs were old Mercedes saloons and the drivers more controlled. It was a 5 min drive to our hotel at the entrance to the Medina. We stayed at El Minzah which is one of the oldest and most famous 5 star hotels in Tanger, built in the 30's and frequented by many an artist and movie star.

We decided not to hire a guide to take us around the Medina but had difficulty convincing a gentleman that we hadn't booked him, we had only enquired how much and he proceeded to walk with us for a good while. It is such a unique atmosphere in the old part of town, almost ancient. It was sometimes reminiscent of a scene from Star Wars with Obi One Kanobi lookalikes walking around everywhere and strange creatures in robes.

The first day was spent gathering our bearings and deciding what to purchase and our purchasing strategy. I was nervous and felt quite self-conscious. Everyone was staring at my belly as though they had never seen a pregnant woman before. During the day there were mostly men around. They just seem to sit around all doing not much, except the ones trying to lure tourists into their shops. There were groups of men of all ages just sitting around, for example looking out to sea. We decided that with all the praying they had to do there was not much time for anything else. At the call to prayer there is a mass exodus, then afterwards a return to the buzzing streets. In the evening the streets really come alive with more stalls and men accompanied by women, although not showing any overt signs of affection we noticed.

We must have drunk several litres of mint tea throughout the day, resting in between our walking back and forward through the maze of the kasbah, trying to look like we knew where we were headed! When we got back to the hotel we were exhausted. We ate in one of the hotel restaurants serving traditional Moroccan fare which was delicious however the service was very Faulty Towers! We went to bed early but were kept awake by the horrendously loud thumping music of a Moroccan wedding taking place downstairs!

Next morning we woke to a gorgeous sunny day and enjoyed a delicious buffet breakfast including pancakes, eggs, fruit and more mint tea for me! We set off early on the purchasing expedition to get some shopping in before checkout at midday. I was much more confident and relaxed and even wore my camera around my neck. We had a fantastic day and got to experience another side to the people. We experienced the humble, generous, trusting and trustworthy side of Tangerinos which was far from what I was expecting. And we bought some amazing items for the house - 2 carpets, a teapot, 4 cushion covers, a tray and a shirt. Tanc is amazing at bargaining. He plays them at their own game. I have no doubt we bought our items lower than any other tourist that day. He always said it was in his blood! He even managed to get 50% off the hotel bill after complaining about the noise overnight!

1 comment:

Claerwen said...

Big WOWS!!! Sounds so exotic and glam. Very jealous! Such a contrast to domestic life here in sunny Northcote. Mostly nappy changing and a toddle round the block swinging on gates and talking to cats, Baxi drooling on the baby bjorn. Didn't manage to wash my fringe so looking rather greesy! Can't believe you are getting so close. Such and exciting time! Really appreciate your blog - feel like we are on the journey with you. Keep on keeping on gorgeous XXXXXXXXXX