This past Sunday I watched my favorite travel show – Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain. He was in Tangier, Morocco, and it brought back memories of when I was there almost 10 years ago.
In 2004, I decided to study abroad for a semester in Sevilla, Spain. One long weekend, my new girlfriend (now wife) and a group of friends decided to take a trip to Morocco. We took a ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar (you can literally see North Africa across the water from the southern tip of Spain) and landed in Tangier.
The ride across was smooth and easy…
But the arrival was not!
I remember it took over an hour to get off the boat once we had docked. There was lots of bumbling about our passports. When we finally got off the boat, we had arranged with the hotel we were staying with to pick us up there. Well, there were 2 separate men waiting to pick us up, and they then got into a shouting match. Of course we didn’t understand anything they were saying. Some way or another, one of the guys sort of admitted defeat and left, and it seemed right to go with the guy that was left. In any case, he took us straight to our hotel.
Tangier, to me, seemed like a new exotic place to explore that was under the radar. I’m sure thousands of tourists passed through there all the time, but it still felt off the map. There were camels on the beach. The sounds of Arabic and French were new to me. I’d never heard calls to prayer from a mosque before. A guy kept hounding us to be our “tour guide” when we were walking through one of the main markets. Men and women dressed differently than I’d ever seen before.
When I travel to places, I usually like to try to blend in. But in our group, one of our friends was a very big, stereotypical “American-looking” guy from Wyoming. I don’t think he thought about blending in much with his actions either. So we were definitely noticeable out in public.
When the Bourne Ultimatum movie came out in 2007, I couldn’t believe the coolest scenes in the movie were filmed in Tangier! These scenes only seemed to confirm (in a very extreme way) my perception of Tangier being a tad shady:
On the other hand, I’ve read about others having wonderful experiences in Tangier. It seems to have become more and more of a destination. The landscapes around the city are beautiful.
We visited Chefchaouen, a couple hours south of Tangier, of which I did a couple paintings:
My wife and I still have a beautiful woven blanket that we bought in Chefchaouen.
So to make a long story short, I loved watching Anthony Bourdain in Tangier, as I got to re-live my visit there and learn more about the city. I’m going to have to go back through some photos and create a painting or two of Tangier!