Thursday, December 20, 2018


Today I visited Africa for the first time. We got up early this morning in Sevilla, bade Laura a fond farewell, and headed out. First, we dropped Taylor at the airport for the long journey to SoCal and his family for the holidays. As I write this about 14 hours later, he's changing planes in Chicago.

Ric, Kathy, Rachel and I continued in the rental car down to Tarifa, Spain where we would take a ferry across the Straight of Gibraltar to Tangier, Morocco. We got there pretty early for our 1 o'clock ferry, so we strolled around a nearby fort. This fort has been here in some form or other for about 1,000 years:

The view of the Strait of Gibraltar and the ferry terminal from the ramparts was beautiful in the cool, clear weather:

After checking out the fort, we got on our ferry:

We looked back at the fort (and Spain, and Europe) and headed to Tangier (and Morocco and Africa):

Upon arriving at the ferry terminal in Tangier, we were met (accosted is probably a better word) by a random Moroccan, named Josef, who aggressively wanted to give us a cab ride. We kept our eyes forward and kept walking, but Josef wore us down and we ended up taking a cab ride with him to the hotel. Along the way, he talked up Tangier and offered to arrange a tour of the Casbah (the fort area at the top of the hill) and the Medina (the market area on the lower slopes around the Casbah). He came into the lobby with us. Ric asked the maitre d' about the guy and we were assured that Josef was a legit tour guide. Also, he offered to show us around for $10/person. We figured what the heck? Once we reached an agreement, Josef brought in his subcontractor Hassan for the actual tour:

Hassan was a serious guy, but very nice. He walked us all around the Casbah and the Medina. Everybody knew him. We kind of figured out his game after a while. He would stop in different shops and let the proprietors pitch us. I'm guessing Hassan (and upstream Josef) got a cut of any sales that occurred). Hassan also brought us to a nice restaurant with a rooftop view that was amazing and good food to boot! Once we figure out what was going on, it was all cool.

Here's the view from the Casbah:

Some of the Moorish artwork is similar to what you'd see in Sevilla:

The walls of the Casbah from atop our restaurant:

Our restaurant, we ate on the balcony in the upper left of this picture:

But the inside was also lovely, though I think we were there at an off-peak time. Here, we interrupted a man praying (we had just heard the Muslim call to prayer all over the city):

The food was wonderful. Of course, there was no alcohol on the menu, but the tea was top-notch:

Along the rest of the tour, we were joined by a dog:

She was super friendly and Hassan said that this dog often followed his tour groups. Kathy and I had the song Rock the Casbah by The Clash running through our heads all day, so Rachel took this picture of us under the entrance gate to the Casbah:

Rachel and me posing at the entrance to one of the market areas:

A lovely rug at one of our many merchant stops with Hassan:

The moon visited Morocco near the end of the evening:

Overall, while there was a bit of a commercial aspect to Hassan's tour, he was friendly and knowledgeable, and we got to see a lot of the city that we probably wouldn't have found on our own. This might be a positive review, but I have no idea how to find Josef or Hassan again. But if you run into Josef at the ferry terminal in Tangier and have an afternoon to kill, it's not a bad deal. The lunch ran about $80, the tour about $40. That's 4 people for about 6 hours for about $120. I'd recommend it.