Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Q: What do you call people in Tangier?A: TANGIEREENS!!!

Ha ha ha ha ha! That cracks me up every time I say it!

Inside hotel continental

After a long day of waking up at 5 am and going to Gibraltar and climbing all over the rock with monkeys and multiple bus rides..... We finally got on the 5pm ferry from Tarifa to Tangier. All the ferry advertising says it takes 35 minutes but we left late and the crossing took more like an hour. They did stamp all our passports on the boat though, so that saved us time by not doing customs at the Moroccan port. Our hotel was right on the edge of the port, hotel continental. This hotel is definitely in the "former glory" category, with famous guests as Winston Churchill, Degas, Kerouac and his rowdy gang staying there back in the day. This list of heavy hitting names really lent it some mystery and intrigue, I was excited to stay in such a historic place. The area in front of the hotel in the port was crumbling to pieces so we had to walk around some little streets but found it pretty easily, shrugging off numerous offers of cabs and guides to show us the way and also people saying "if your looking for the hotel you're going the wrong way, it's this way let me show you" which is something I quickly noticed is a theme in Tangier. Bill and I pride ourselves tremendously on our capacity to completely ignore people, a skill honed after living in New York City for 10 years. I don't care what you're saying or how crazy you look, you simply do not exist to me.

View from our room

So we make it to the hotel and as we are checking in a porter is hanging around our bags and immediately snatches them up, along with our room keys, and takes them up 3 flights of stairs. He let's us choose between two rooms, explaining the benefits of each one in very broken English. We choose and I go into my change purse to give him a tip and I only have .60 in euros. I look at Bill, he only has 20s on him. I wasn't giving this guy 20€ for carrying bags so I feebly handed over the 60 cents. He was dumbfounded. I tried to explain that we didn't have durham on us and we had to go to the bank and he still just stands there. I show him my empty change purse and he still is standing there. I'm like, really? REALLY? Wtf. Finally he shrugs and gives us the stink eye as he's leaving. I'd like to point out here, that .60 in euro is like almost a dollar, and that's 8 Durham for him. So I don't think he should have been so snooty about it. In any case, we gave him 100 Durham the next day as an apology.

A door in the hotel

Morocco is 2 hours behind Spain so it was only around 5pm at this point and we decide to venture out into the city. A very good friend of ours grew up in Tangier and his father gave us the name of a friend's shop to visit. We locate it on the map and its not far from our hotel. We manage to navigate pretty easily around the medina and up into Avril 9 square where there is a large fountain and a mosque and lots of shops, cafes, a movie theater and snail man. Snail man is a street vendor that sells steamed snails in a sauce out of his cart and you get them by the bowlful and pull them out of their shells with toothpicks. I decided I would catch snail man the next day because I was actually really hungry and kind of scared, yet fascinated, by his little cart. We found the shop but it was closed. We continued walking and stumbled upon the Gran Cafe across from the French consulate. It was here that I started noticing something very strange. There were tons of women on the street, mostly all dressed in traditional tunics, but none were in any of the cafes. Every single cafe we walked by was entirely filled with men. Even small places to eat were filled with men. I was starting to panic, do women not eat in public here? Was I going to starve? Why didn't any of the info I read about morocco mention this? At this point I started to feel very uncomfortable. I'm not going to sugar coat it- I'm an American. Americans, no matter how open minded, when in a Muslim country are going to feel slightly odd. Except for Bill, he felt like he was in Queens. But bill is a man and I am not. I didn't understand (due to lack of research on my part) why I wasn't supposed to be in a cafe, and I found it pretty insulting. I guess this is just part of culture shock and there comes a point you have to just accept the customs of another place and get over it instead of fighting it. Anyway, we walked around for a little while and found a place that had a woman and man eating inside, so we went in there. There was a restaurant downstairs but we sat in the cafe part upstairs because that's where the woman was. We ordered mint teas and started to relax. I need to say that the mint tea in Tangier was the most amazing cup of tea I've ever had in my life. Refreshing, hot and sweet all at the same time. We also ordered a salad and shwarma off the little cafe menu and had that for dinner. As we were eating I noticed a ton of women going down into the basement restaurant, so I guess we chose wrong after all. The grand total of our bill was $5 and on our way home we stopped at a vendor on the street selling fresh sugar donuts that he sliced open and filled with jelly. These were .20 cents a piece and delicious. I fell asleep happy.


P.s. After some searching it seems like the men only cafe thing is something that dates back a long time. Besides cafes basically being man clubs, Tangier was a haven for spies during world war two and a lot of business was conducted in cafes, thus rendering them an unsuitable place for women to be. This is what I gathered off the Internet, which is sometimes notoriously unreliable so who knows....if anyone can tell me the real reason I'd love to hear it.

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