Tarifa/Spain – Tangier/Morocco

Tangier, Morocco, a gateway between Europe and Africa, which for the majority of Africans, however, is closed. Tangier has a shady reputation. Also, even if the Moroccans in the country warn of their fellow countrymen, I do have positive experiences from the beginning. That should not change until the end. I learn to know the most Moroccans as very friendly and hospitable. There is no shortage of smiley greeting and giving applause people. In no country, I was so often invited to a tea or coffee, twice to a overnight stay. So everybody makes his own experiences, and that is what this trip is for. The luck of the optimists is on my side anyway.
Sometimes difficult is to find an accommodation in hotels, where you apparently prefer to remain among your peers, and you must accept that prices are somewhat dynamic.
Only the weather welcomes me unfriendly – everyday rain. Next to the road stands the water. It goes through a green, mostly treeless landscape. The Sahara is a good distance away.

From Tangier I drive a round trip through the 4 so-called royal cities, cities that at some time have been the capital and equivalent have had a rise. These are Rabat, Marrakech, Meknes and Fez. Additionally, I visit Casablanca. Besides pompous buildings, especially mosques, Koran schools, city gates, in these cities the Medina, the old town, is an experience. Surrounded by a wall they are a labyrinth of narrow streets and alleyways. Therein are the souks, markets and craft areas, always have been sorted according to trades. But in preferred locations nowadays crafts are sold to tourists. A lively crowd of more or less intrusive dealers where through densest crowds scrape through donkey carts and bicycles and rush across horning mopeds. It requires some concentration to find back to your accommodation.

Casablanca. Already 16km before I reach it, I see the landmark of the city, which highly overtowers the coastal plain. It is the Hassan-2nd-Mosque, of which minaret with an height of 210m is the tallest religious structure. With space for 25.000 believers, it is the second largest mosque in the world. The largest mosque in the world is in Mecca, but while non-Muslims do not have any access to Mecca, the Hassan-2nd-Mosque is the only mosque in Morocco, which they may enter – for a big slice of payment of course.

On the next stage, I spend the night in a police station. With the police, I hang out this evening in the village while the bike is parked at the police station. Because you feel safe. Close to the radio in front of the photo of the president I sleep more comfortable than in most low-cost dosshouse.
Not only this evening I discuss about religion, as far as linguistic barriers allow it. One can not understand, how I, without to believe in any god, do not stumble through life disoriented, have a world view and values. Withal there are documents that clearly show the existence of Alah, the locals argue. After all, you can talk about it with the people. Morocco though is a western-oriented, muslim country. Apparently is the difference to Arab countries we got to know at the beginning of the journey concerning the role of women. These appear here to be more free. Not all wear a headscarf, the least are veiled.

The road provides an entertaining diversion while cycling. How many family members fit on a motorcycle? How many people can travel hanging outside on a minibus? How far in all directions you can load a truck? Couldn’t you built a kind roof garden on top of a highly loaded truck, where you can additionally transport cows? Everything is possible.

Marrakech, „The Pearl of the South“ against the background of snow covered 4000ers of the Atlas Mountains. The exotic, to me the name of Marrakech suggests, can be found on the Djemaa el Fna, the ‚Square of the Beheaded‘. A comparable place, I haven’t seen yet. There are plenty of snake charmers, storytellers, musicians, acrobats, monkeys, fruit stands, food stands, women making henna tattoos, elaborately dressed water sellers. Much aims to pull the many tourists the money out of their pockets – mainly you should pay for taking pictures. Once you stand still somewhere, the collecte is on you. Once you take out your camera, you are pressed hard, as if you the shell game mafia is your opponent. But the place also attracts many locals to the food stands, to the jugglers and they surround the famous storyteller, which certainly are not here because of the usually non-Arabic-speaking tourists. When the sun goes down, rises a smoke and vapour cloud of the food stall above the place, the oriental musical instruments disseminate a alien sound. When then the chorus of the muezzin turns in, a unique atmosphere, an experience for eye, ear and nose is perfect (see and hear also ‚Call to prayer in Marrakech/Morocco : Audio‚). Not for nothing this place is assimilated in the UNESCO World Heritage List as a ‚masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage of humanity‘.
The Djemaa el Fna is as fascinating as inconvenient. As often, there is also in Morocco, a big discrepancy between such a tourist magnet with its commerce and the nice, very different rest of the country. Once again I delight in the advantage of travelling by bicycle, that you have a cross section of the country also between the places designated as places of interest.

For dinner in Marrakech, I have a bowl of snails for appetizer, for dessert a bag of dates. A few times I eat Tajine – vegetables and meat are cooked on charcoal in a clay vessel with a conic lid. Not all culinary experiments proceede successfully, but I have never ruined the stomach – Alhamdoulah, Thank goodness/Alah.

In Meknes another spectacle – El Khiyala or Fantasia, equestrian games. On a large, sandy place in front of the old city wall a 3-digit number of decorated riders has congregated, equipped with long, old-fashioned powder rifles. The riders group again and again in teams of about a dozen side by side, ride in horse stretched across the square, while they swing their gun and cry. At the end of the square, close to touch in front of the spectators, they stop their horses hard and fire into the air. There is applause, if it bangs synchronous and loud like a cannon blow that you can feel the blast sitting in front.

Fes. In this city there is the alleged largest tannery and dyeing factory in North Africa. From the surrounding rooftops it offers a fascinating picture – colourful and yet repulsive. On a courtyard there are many concrete pools with liquids of different colours. In these basins are the workers without any protective clothing and pull animal skins through the broth. On the surrounding roofs drys wool and leather. A repulsive picture, because in a different tannery I could see the whole thing close up and I could smell it.

Along the foothills of the Rif Mountains I am invited to an overnight stay by a farmer. Mohammed grows cannabis, as so many here (Cannabis cultivation in the north of Morocco is an important industry and feeds a lot of farmers and their families.). The next morning I get presented the processing of the plants.
Everyone here smokes marijuana or hashish, which here is called Kiff, explains to me an older man in a coffee shop. He gets out of his leather case a discerptible pipe for Kiff, and when I went to scout the neighbouring tables, it seems to be true. In no country before I was so often offered something to smoke. Police checks you allegedly pass against a tip.

I have experienced a lot in 2.5 weeks in Morocco. I am very satisfied to have made this detour. It was worth it.

Tangier is both the start and endpoint in Morocco. By ferry I go to Spanish Barcelona.


pictures to this article: Tarifa/Spanien – Tanger/Marokko : Fotos

19. März 2009 - Tom | english texts | Kommentare :: comments :: comentarios | Inhalt drucken

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