Welcome to Tangier
Tangier (/tænˈdʒɪər/; Arabic: طنجة Ṭanjah; Berber: ⵟⴰⵏⴵⴰ Ṭanja; old Berber name: ⵜⵉⵏⴳⵉ Tingi; adapted to Roman: Tingis), where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean.
Whenever we mentioned we were coming to Morocco, people would raise their eyebrows and say things like: it's a dangerous place, full of scams and people with bad intentions... Our thought was how would they know it if they've never been?!
Even in Gibraltar, we got this kind of reaction and they're so close.
Admittedly before we arrived in Morocco, we were like one of those people who knew very little about the country and I think none of us really knew what to expect. We did have our apprehensions but having travelled in South East Asia backpack style (and John also in India) we thought we were prepared and open-minded.
But Africa caught us off guard and from the moment of arrival Tangier overwhelmed us starting on the intense smell of the fishing port and the noises of the calls for prayer, but also the people.
The very laid back attitude of the officials toward us despite they're not used to get many yachties, in general, everyone was very polite and nice making us feel welcome, in contrast to some of the people we crossed in the less crowded areas of the Medina that can leave us easily with a feeling of discomfort due to the stereotypes that we seem to still have despite our travelling background.
There's something about small groups of young men or even older kids (2-3) that leaves us in our toes. The way they look at us, the way they interact between themselves, the fact that they don't seem to have a real reason to be on that corner of the street. It's not like they're hanging out or waiting for something, they seem to be just there suspended in time. Which for us is weird and leaves us uncomfortable when they are the only other people on the street beside us.
For sure is just a stupid preconceived idea we have of how a person with bad intentions might look, because it's impossible that half of the people would be like that. Must be a cultural thing because there are so many of these little groups everywhere and at any time of the day.
It's just interesting that despite our efforts to avoid these stereotypes we still have them.
Besides these little groups there are lots of people that are abnormally helpful and want to give you directions even if you don't seem lost, they start by addressing us in Spanish and when we reply that we're fine in French they start replying in French but change to English because they can understand we're not French. They'll try and convince us that we should go to this place or that, their insistent behaviour leads us to think there's a personal interest in taking us to a specific shop or restaurant. They prey on the tourists and I think it's not very positive for the industry, but it is what it is and we also need to learn how to cope with these situations.
The one thing that puts me more on edge is the "old" guy with a monkey on a chain sitting on the side of the street and that always looks either distracted talking to someone else or half asleep. In the Chinese city (Zhuhai) next to where we used to live there was a guy like this and we've seen the monkey in action many times jumping on people and stealing them or being used as a distraction strategy for pickpockets, so we always keep at bay.
It's surprising and extremely sad to see that in the 21st century this still happens, wild animals kept like this, used against their nature and who knows how they're kept and treated when not being used on the street.
All this, mixed with the culturally and historically rich old Medina, the labyrinth of streets, claustrophobically narrow, the beautiful architectural details, the eclectic mix of people some still wearing traditional clothes (some more old style than others) makes a visit to Tangier well worth for a couple of days.
Unfortunately, it seems there isn't a lot of updated information available regarding the facilities for yachties in Tangier.
We found last minute that the new marina is whilst complete, NOT OPEN (as of the end of September 2017) unlike advertised and posted in several research websites like noonsite or even the marina website itself.
Boats (foreign boats) are not allowed to anchor in Morocco so the only option is the limited space available in the fishing ports and marinas. In Tangier, the mooring is done against a greasy concrete wall in between some motor vessels including two big coastguard boats. Any other yacht that arrives will just be rafted to the first boat.
Note that the grease gets on everything, fenders, mooring lines, broadsides and doesn't come off easily.
Every morning the harbour seems to be full of rubbish in the water that is promptly collected by some workers. A mix of rotting fish, animal and fishing plastic and ropes etc. can be found in quantities we couldn't understand the origin. For sure no bow thrusting here or you'll lose your prop!
On our last day, there was three of us rafted up to the wall, and we were the ones tied to the wall. The two others much smaller than us by a third and half were at the mercy of our decision to leave.
Not sure what happens if the boat on the wall decides to leave and there's no one on the ones that are just rafted. The harbour master crew seems to be quite willing to move the boats by themselves if the boat is small enough for them to tow with their dinghy.
This added to the fact that is right by the ferry port makes it feel like a very precarious situation, surrounded by barb wire and with the occasional incident of illegal immigrants that try to hop on the ferry running from the police in the construction site area. Nothing alarming for us, since we're moored 2 meters away from the two coast guard boats.
The fishing port has recently started construction works for a new boat repair facility that should provide support to the new marina but they've barely started and seemed many months from completion.
But what stays in our memory of Tangier is those small glimpses of the past perfectly preserved in time, that make you dream of another era.
More photos of Tangier can be seen on our Facebook album: Morocco - Tangier - September 2017
***In the spirit of sharing our dreams and experiences we have shared this blog post in the NOFOREIGNLAND.COM website sailors community.