Tangier, Morocco catches me off guard because it is merely an hours flight away from Madrid. If I get on a plane in Kansas City and fly for an hour, I’m going to see something pretty similar to what’s in Kansas City. Similar people, same language, same food (but inferior barbecue), slightly different terrain. Madrid and Tangier are a world apart. Best for visiting in the summer, Morocco is to Spain what Mexico is to the US: a hot, slightly exotic getaway to a land where you can barter with merchants, the currency exchange is around 10:1, and you stick out (badly) like a foreigner if you have blonde hair.
A dynasty of thousands of years, Morocco is the worlds largest exporter of phosphorus and is known around the world for its excellent cuisine. Phosphorus is a homeopathic mineral used to treat circulation problems, hypertension, insomnia, and exhaustion. The herb stores in the Medina marketplace are high in variety and quality, certainly an exciting moment for anyone who pays careful attention to an organic lifestyle or enjoys cooking in general. The Taijín plate is a meat dish cooked in a clay pot. You have the option of chicken, meatballs with cheese, beef, or lamb. The pot is the key because it cooks very hot without allowing the juices from the meat to escape. The result is a rich, highly flavorful package that will burn your tongue quickly if you aren’t patient. The green tea they serve is the best I have ever had, bar none. They put mint leaves about 1/3 full in a teapot and heat. And serve. And delicious. And I should mention you can eat like a king in Tangier for 8 or 9 dollars.
The highlights of Tangier are the beach next to the port, the countryside along the coast, and the Medina. On the north coast, there is a hole where the surf has cut a massive opening which you can check out thanks to YouTube: http://wn.com/Tanger_Gruta_de_Hércules. Legend has it that Hercules slept there before completing his twelve legendary feats, and now the Moroccan coastline will never be the same. This area of the African coast is especially noteworthy because lies in the area where the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean meet. The highway along the coast reminds me of the NW coastline at Washington Slagbai National Park in Bonaire for its height above the coastline (120 feet on average), it’s busy hills, and sheer beauty. Obviously, the Moroccan coastline is a significant area of the world to control for its gateway to the rest of the Mediterranean. The Medina is an open air market filled with all sorts of living room antiquities, shoes, purses, jackets, pirated pop music and Hollywood movies, and pesky wanna-be tour guides. The market is an oddity because it doesn’t distinguish in the street style (most only large enough for pedestrians and the occasional motorbike) between the market area and the residential area. You quickly get the feeling that you are in an ancient urban labyrinth.
Many of the restaurants along the main drives have a single row of tables facing the street filled with men drinking tea and watching all the people who walk by. No women do this at all. In fact, there weren’t very many women in the streets in general. I realized I was definitely not in Kansas anymore when I slightly interrupted a Muslim convenience store clerk who was praying to Allah between sales. This is a socially conservative culture like many Middle Eastern countries. Unlike Spain and other Latin American countries, public displays of affection are frowned on too. Often I found myself approached by people wanting me to buy their package of chewing gum or anything else they thought I needed (apparently chocolate means drugs too).
What can I say about Morocco? I never felt like I was in danger as much as I felt like I was checking out a world completely alien to anywhere else I have been, much less the US. I barely got a glimpse of a millennial country in a few days but I will say they are people who deeply value their faith, want to have a place in the world market, have a thinly developed middle class, and know how to cook like nobody’s business.