|Tangier in the background|
When we disembarked from our tour bus in Tangier we discovered that a young man had assigned himself to us. A friendly young fellow with a lame leg, he limped along beside our group as we approached the Casbah. It was comforting to know that he could answer any questions we had and he would also discourage any locals who might approach us in a negative manner.
Within the Casbah we were astounded by the poverty, the beggars, the lack of hygiene in locals selling produce, dead chickens lying out in the open on the sidewalk, flies hovering around the carcasses. We saw people with deformities and one memory that stays with me is of a young mother sitting on the sidewalk, her feet so dirty she likely hadn’t bathed in weeks and a baby clinging to her strapped in some type of scarf. I remember thinking what kind of life was in store for that baby? The street vendors were very aggressive and annoying as they walked beside us shoving their wares in our faces. While walking down a narrow alley my senses were on overload and I recall looking up at the blue sky above, thinking that I would like to be anywhere but here. I was crushed with culture shock!
Our group was led into a restaurant that was decorated ornately in mostly reds; velvet curtains, brocade wallpaper, Persian rugs; all a little garish. Maybe an interior designer’s nightmare but it felt rather cosy as we settled against our pillows.
The menu was soup, chicken, lamb shishka bobs and couscous and it was very tasty. One of the ladies in our group stood off to the side and looked a little ashen. I think she was shaken by what she had seen outside and apparently had no appetite for Moroccon cuisine. We were amused to watch a trio of pudgy ladies who performed a belly dance. A quintet of men entertained us as they sang and played instruments while we dined.
From the restaurant we were escorted to a store that displayed many beautiful Persian rugs. As soon as the retailer realized we were not interested in purchasing one we were aggressively herded downstairs where a variety of leather, brass and ceramic goods were on display. From there we were led out in the street where once again the hawkers pounced on us.
On the way back to port we stopped so those who chose to do so could ride on a camel. The poor camel cried out in distress every time he was forced to kneel so that another tourist could clamber upon his back. I have to admit my husband was one of those tourists. He just didn’t realize that the camel was likely in pain.
At the port we were informed that the boat picking us up would be late due to heavy fog in the Strait. We just milled about chatting with the others from our group and one lady told me that a local boy had been eying my camera that hung on my shoulder. About fifteen minutes later we heard sharp slaps and we were told that the security people had caught a young man trying to pick someone’s pocket and they strapped him on the spot. It made me even more diligent about hanging on to my camera. When the fog finally lifted we cruised back to Algeciras for a very late dinner at our hotel.