Monday, 3 March 2014

3rd March

An interesting day today. We started with a tour of Algeciras looking for fuel and water, which we found eventually before arriving at the port an hour prior to departure time. After some time we passed through to the dock side and lined up for what we thought was our boat. Suddenly, we’re directed through to another vessel further down the quay, which was a relief as the 1st one had welding being done to a "watertight" door!  Slowly, more and more trucks disappeared on board, reversing into position. Then the deck was raised to the lower deck and the cars, us included, went down inside. So far, so good. Departure time came and went and more trucks seemed to arrive and back in. An hour after the scheduled departure time we finally left for Tangier-Med. An hour and half later we arrive into the outer dock of Tangier-Med and stopped. Thirty minutes after that we started to dock after the harbour police had been out and boarded the boat. I watched as the crew very leisurely tied the boat up and lowered the ramp. Eventually we were called to our cars. All in al, the crossing that is scheduled to take 1.5 hours had in fact taken closer to 3.5! Luckily we were not in a hurry. Then the next bit of fun started – getting through customs. I had already prepared a customs form from their website and had the required documents to hand. What was not clear was where I was supposed to stop as I had a load of customs officials running after me to stop, which I did. The next 20 minutes was spent with some bored, but officious customs officers as I walked through the process. As one point I woke up a snoozing officer as I needed to go through another hoop as I’d not been to Morocco before. He rather grumpily did his job and immediately put his head phones back on, shut the door and presumably went back to sleep! All that was required was another officer to take a cursory look in the back of the Freelander before giving me the temporary import document I needed to be on my way.

Faded grandeur of a bygone era
We decided to take the autoroute into Tangier rather than the back road. This took us to the east of town. As we approached, the traffic got heavier and the driving style more interesting. You’ve certainly got to have your wits about you driving here. After taking a wrong turn I needed to make a left turn across traffic. This involved pushing out into the traffic and using all the cheek I could muster before pulling across all lanes to the sounds of tooting. Tamsin was laughing hysterically as she thought we would be hit. Fortunately my experiences many years ago driving in Rome rush hour traffic paid off!!

We found the hotel Rembrandt after a bit of messing around caused by the sat nav dropping us just short of the target.  Tamsin and Hanna got out and found it on foot after I had managed to squeeze the car into a space. Having checked in we decided to go and have a look around. A gentleman that had been helpful to Tamsin and Hanna when they were looking for the hotel popped up and said that he would take us around as he was killing time before he started his barman job later on – we should have been suspicious then.
Spice Shop
Abdul took us into the Medina area which was very interesting in itself with all the shops, hustle and bustle.  En route to the Medina, we passes the Gran Teatro Cervantes, which in it's heyday had been the largest theatre in north Africa, but is sadly now in declne.  We visited weavers shops, where they turned out amazing clothes and what looked like makeshift looms, market stalls crammed full of locally grown fruit and veg, shops selling argan oil, herbal remedies, spices etc (I picked up something that is supposed to cure snoring) and a carpet/clothes shop.
At the last place we were treated to mint tea whilst being dressed as Berbers complete with head dress, taken through all the types of material used for rugs, throws, blankets and coats (sheep wool, camel hair, aloe fibre, silk, cotton and agave fibre).
Cherif (the owner) did a good, slow sell job as I ended up bartering for a small rug for my bedside that I was looking out for. On the way back we stopped for dinner at a nice Moroccan restaurant. I started with a salad and Tamsin and Hanna had the soup. The salad was spot on and tasty and I have no idea about the soup as it disappeared before I could try any. The next course was pastilla, which is chicken with a pistachio surround all in a filo pastry – yum! We finished the meal chicken kebabs with couscous, which again were very tasty.
Who is this?

On the way back we discovered that Abdul wasn’t really killing time, but was an unlicensed tour guide. A bit annoying, but we did get to see lots of the city that we never would have without him.

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