Twenty-four Little Hours

One year, my husband and I visited Tangier. We had been spending time in Seville, Spain and decided to break up our stay with a weekend in Morocco. I read our travel guide before going and it warned against staying longer in Tangier than it was necessary to get to next town. It also cautioned us against phony tour guides, who hung around the piers, taking advantage of gullible tourist. Armed with this knowledge, we checked out of our room in Seville and headed south to catch the next boat across the Strait of Gibraltar.
The seas were rough that day. After getting our passports stamped numerous times we finally settled in for the short trip. I could not swim so I immediately located the life vests and positioned myself near a set of them. The ship pitched up and down as it hit wave after wave, this is how I learned that I donít get sea sick. My husband was also fine however; just about everyone else lost their lunch. You havenít lived until youíve smelled cumin and paprika mixed with bile.
Eventually the ship docked and we began to disembark, but not before we had to endure another round of passports stamps. As we waited patiently to exit, loud voices broke out among some of the seamen. I thought they were going to fist fight the way they were screaming and gesturing at it each other, but just as the argument spontaneously started, it stopped. While watching this display of testosterone, we struck up a conversation with two other travelers, and deciding there was safety in numbers, we would stick together. Unfortunately, they hadnít read the travel guide.
The minute we went ashore, we were accosted by a number of spurious tour guides. I tried to alert out new found companions about this but to no avail. They were convinced of this one particular guideís authenticity. This man bore a slight resemblance to the Egyptian who helps Indiana Jones in The Raiders of the Lost Ark, a shadier one. He loaded us into his dilapidated vehicle and almost ran head on into another car. Another shouting match ensued and even though I didnít know what was being said, I was certain death threats had been swapped. Every place he took us we were greeted with winks, grunts, or sly grins, such as with the rug dealers who detained for over an hour.
Wanting to rest we asked about accommodations. Being the only female in the group, I voted for something clean and safe. My concerns were ignored once again, as all the men decided on the old part of town, believing this the only way to truly experience Morocco. We were shown places that still occasionally haunt my sleep. One place was certainly a drug den, and another place was in such bad shape sleeping outside would have been preferable. We finally settled on a hotel which had seen better days but at least it had identifiable beds and most importantly, a door that locked. Too pricey for our friends, at ten dollars a night, we were left to ourselves. Our dinner consisted of freshly baked bread, the best bread I have ever tasted, and mint tea. We went to bed fully dressed, my purse tucked under the covers along side of me. I hardly slept.
As soon as daylight peered through our window, I hopped up, ready to leave. I had seen all I wanted of Tangier. Outside, we stood momentarily on a street corner, as my husband, still sleepy, attempted to persuade me to stay another day. Having had enough, I started making threats of abandonment, insisting I would return to Seville with or without him, when we were approached by an elderly Moroccan man. He said, using hand gestures as he spoke, the bank is that way, the dock this way; he then smiled broadly and left, his job complete. Thankfully, my husband took his advice and we headed towards the port.

Hungry and sleep deprived we returned to Seville around six in the evening on Saturday. We went back to the hotel weíd previously stayed, naively expecting them to have our old room. Not only did they not have a room for us, the whole town was booked. Homeless, we spent much of the night wondering about before settling down on a park bench. There, we watched the sunrise, never regretting our premature return.

J Mann

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