Today I had a whole day to discover Tangier. I started with the various museums in the medina, some of which had been recently created as part of the city’s rejuvenation. The first was a museum devoted to Ibn Battouta who, in three long trips in the first half of the 14th century, visited West Africa (as far as the empire of Mali), Mecca and the Middle East, East Africa, Central Asia, India, Burma and China – easily out-travelling Marco Polo. The museum was housed in a nice old building, but suffered from a lack of objects to display, relying instead on large panels displaying Ibn Battouta’s travels. A great story, but not enough to base a museum on – although I did learn that the 14th Century Emperor of Mali might have been the richest man of all time (correcting for inflation). A bit later in the day, I stumbled on Ibn Battouta’s tomb, hidden down one of the medina alleyways. I wondered if the great traveller would have wanted to be buried in an obscure corner of his hometown, or whether he perhaps had hoped for a more exotic resting place.
The combined museum of the Kasbah and contemporary art had the same problem – a beautiful old building but not much interesting art or many artefacts of old Kasbah life. Each room had its own security guard wearing a bullet proof vest, who would greet me, wait for me to quickly scan the exhibits, and direct me along a passageway or up stairs to the next room in a bizarrely convoluted route through the museum. The guards smiled broadly, as if they thought that my procession was as comic as I did. I at least snapped this striking installation of coloured tea glasses…….
The tea glasses reminded me that I needed coffee – which is always nearby in Morocco. I headed to the roof of the Café Bleu, from where there was a great view over Tangier.
I also managed to alarm these two seagulls who had built a nest there, and who squawked at me in a warning not to come any closer.
After coffee, my medina exploration became more successful. I found more pretty little alleyways and squares……
……….and a beautiful old synagogue…..
…and then the Place Petit Socco, which used to be a centre for drug dealing and prostitution, but now is a good place to drink even more mint tea and watch the comings and goings of people visiting the nearby market. From there I found one of Tangier’s most interesting buildings – the American Legation. Morocco was the first country to recognise the independence of the USA, and the first to give it a property to serve as a diplomatic mission. To this day it is the only foreign property on the US’ list of important historical American buildings. It was a lovely old house, decorated in 1950s style and with a pleasant Andalusian patio and fountain.
From there I walked through the market, where I bought a few dates for a mid-afternoon snack…
…and then headed on to the “new town” for a coffee in the Grand Café de Paris, opposite the French Embassy, before checking out the view of the sea from the wonderfully named “Terrace des Paresseux” (Terrace of Lazy People).
Feeling lazy myself, I headed back to the medina for an aperitif on the roof terrace of one of the hotels. My beer represented my first alcohol in six days – another plus for Tangier over other Moroccan cities is that alcohol is more widely available.
Back at my hotel, I climbed all the way to the roof to try to get a first view of Europe from Africa….and after a day of hazy weather that had hidden the European coast, I was finally rewarded with success. It was a nice way to end my second visit to Morocco.
View from my hotel’s roof – the faint strip of land on the horizon to the left is Europe
I had intended to stay longer and return to Marrakesh, but for personal reasons had to cut my trip short. This will certainly be for a future trip, and I’d also like to explore more of Morocco’s magnificent countryside than I managed this time.
Thank you for sharing all your adventures with us while we toil away in London
It was great to follow your adventures in Morocco!