I really spent only an evening in Tangier, arriving at 4pm and walking to my hostel in the Medina from the train station in the Ville Nouvelle, then eating dinner out and walking around for a few hours. Not a fair visit, really. I liked what I saw of the city, especially once I navigated through the Medina the first time and shook off the inevitable would-be guides. By the time I got back out on the streets again I realized it was nearly five and I’d never eaten lunch so I resolved to eat at the first place I found and then … couldn’t find anything at all. I was getting weak with hunger when I came on a small sign for the Salon Bleu with arrows pointing around the corner. I came up a flight of stairs into a little jewel box of a restaurant which served me one of the best meals of my life – beautiful Moroccan European fusion of lentil soup, vegetables and the inevitable flat bread with olive oil. I sat for more than an hour just enjoying the (blue) ambiance Then I strolled through the medina snapping “last” picutures, finding my way out to the edge, back to the shore line and then returning to my bed to crash for a last night in Morocco.
The crossing to Tarifa was so quick and uneventful (aside from my mild annoyance at not being able to spend my last 30 Dh on board – they accepted euros only) that it hardly felt like anything. I breezed through customs, pausing only to note the oddity of large signs prohibiting the import of potted plants or potatoes into Spain (huh?) and was out on the street almost before I knew what to do with myself.
One can easily see across the straight – I don’t know about currants but it looks swimable. Any mildly acquisitive military or political leader with two boats to rub together would certainly look across and see possibility and its gone both ways – the Moorish rule in Andalucia (al andalus) more or less for 800 years and then in the early part of the last century the Spanish protectorate of northern Morocco. Now they’re back to being nationally separated by their landmasses. The landscape is the same. The buildings feel similar. The tangled alleys and white painted buildings of the Medina were the same on both sides. And yet the different feel is stunning. Tarifa is ineffably European with sidewalk cafes and sunny balconies overlooking the street. Moroccan medina buildings have few if any public windows – all light comes from the internal courtyard. The Spanish buildings have courtyards too but they still have floral adorned exterior windows aplenty. The biggest difference to my eyes was the amount of skin. Tangier is the north most city of a traditional Muslim country – women wear head scarves more often than not and tend to cover up from wrists to ankles. Tarifa is a southern resort town filled with surf shops and women in micro skirts and tube tops. I found myself feeling a little shocked at all the exposed flesh.