Mr. Abdul greeted us at the port entrance dressed in a traditional Moroccan robe and a Fez hat. He had a sparkle in his eyes and a softness about him. After exchanging pleasantries, we piled into his worn but well-loved Mercedes sedan and set off through the city. The seats were covered in handwoven textiles from the Kasbah and small Moroccan rugs lay as floor mats. It felt about as authentic as you could get.
We hired Mr. Abdul through a third-party tour company. The recommendations we read online said that you would have a better experience traveling through Tangier with a local guide. We could immediately see this was true as we watched our cruise ship counterparts wandering around like deer caught in headlights. Tangier is a port city. It is bustling and it can be intense. There are deeply impoverished people on the streets begging, and a constant barrage of salesmen looking to give you the “best deal”. Do not let this deter you though, as it did many people on our cruise ship who did not get off the boat that day. There is so much beauty and history inside this city.
For the first part of the day, Mr. Abdul drove us along the north western African coast where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, also called the Strait of Gibraltar. This coastal line is almost untouched, however, development of this land is not far away. According to Mr. Abdul, Tangier is working hard to increase tourism and development in their city.
The scenic drive took us back around to the city center where we parked just outside of the Kasbah. This is a type of medina or fortress that is referred to as the old city. The medina houses food, clothing, home decor and pretty much anything else you can think of. The winding narrow streets are a place you could easily get lost if you weren’t paying attention so we were happy to have Mr. Abdul in the lead, guiding us through the maze. If you are alone and you get lost, either walk uphill or downhill. Eventually it will spit you out.
We entered the medina through the market. It was a feast for the eyes. Fruits, vegetables, breads, nuts and spices. It was exactly how I imagined that it would look. The sales people were friendly, always greeting us with smiles and waves.
The way Mr. Abdul moved through the medina was hypnotizing. He walked slowly, yet deliberately, with his hands always behind his back. We saw a number of men walking through the streets this way. He always paused and held back to allow people to pass in front of him. A true gentleman. I also believe that his posture and demeanor told the locals that he was guiding us, and to leave us alone. He kept us close and waived off unwanted sellers.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent wandering the streets of Tangier with Mr. Abdul. He brought us to his friend’s shops where we would get “the best deal” and of course we purchased goods. It’s impossible not to. I wish I had a shipping container to send home rugs, dishware and decor. We ate an incredible authentic Moroccan meal and toasted the perfect day with mint tea. My takeaway from Tangier was that the people are lovely, the food is incredible and Mr. Abdul is one of the sweetest humans I have ever had the pleasure to meet. I will be back, Morocco. That is certain.