Retracing the footsteps of Santiago

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“Everywhere there were stalls with items for sale. They reached the center of a large plaza where the market was held. There were thousands of people there, arguing, selling, and buying; vegetables for sale amongst daggers, and carpets displayed alongside tobacco - - - HOW STRANGE AFRICA IS, THOUGHT THE BOY.”

My introduction to Tangier was through the eyes of Santiago. As we walked through the Bazaars of Tangier, the din of marketplace seemed familiar to the description in the Alchemist. There are some new additions though. Instead of tobacco you could smell hashish and shops selling clothes, bags, and shoes outnumbered those selling of daggers. The place was more vibrant and, yes, a constant barrage of tourists!

Tangier - a brewing pot of cultures

Our G adventure itinerary didn’t allow us to see Tangier the way Santiago did. We didn’t have any time to explore on our own. A local guide insisted that we follow him closely through the streets of Tangier and listen to his stories. It was only couple of hours, but Tangier left an indelible mark on our minds. It was very different than the rest of Morocco. It does not have the dusty feeling of Saharan towns, the Andalusian ambiance of Essaouira, the elegance of Marrakech or the sensory stimulation of Fez. But Tangier has its own charm and somehow amalgamated every bit of Morocco in one. It’s a brewing pot of Spanish and Moroccan culture and influences making it a unique place in Morocco.

What to see in Tangier

Tangier is the gateway to Africa. Due to its close proximity to Europe (Tarifa in Spain is only an hour ferry ride), it is a popular destination among European travelers. One can spend days walking around Tangier. The vibrant alleyways of the medina, colorful souks and the Kasbah located at the north end of the medina are the primary tourist attractions here. Upon entering the medina, be careful not to get lost in the winding alleyways. We started at this maze of narrow streets, crossed the grand souk market place, and ended up at the harbor. Travel magazines say that on a clear day, the coasts of Spain are visible from the port. Unfortunately, we visited Tangier on a cloudy day. In the streets, we found plenty of stores selling all sorts of handicrafts - bags, shawls, carpets, and rugs. The Kasbah Museum and the American legation museum are two major attractions near the medina. Cap Spartel, a few minutes drive from Tangier, located in the northwest corner of Africa, gives a beautiful view of the entrance to the straits of Gibraltar.

A different side of Tangier

Tangier has a rich literary and artistic past. Famous authors, painter, and singers called Tangier home at some point in their life, which gave Tangier a mysterious reputation. The golden age of Tangiers - the 60s and 70s were when eccentric ex-pats took refuge in this African town to find inspiration, awakening, or liberation. Paul Bowles is one of the most famous authors who spent most of his life in Tangier. William Burroughs, a primary figure of the beat generation, is another notable writer associated with Tangier. Tennessee Williams, Jack Kerouac, Truman Capote, Gore Vidal..the list goes on. Today many of those attractions of that bygone era are in shambles. However, the magic of Tangier that attracted so many people can still be felt today.

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