Malaga Stories and Tips

Day Trip to the Dark Continent

Our new family in Tangier, Morocco. Photo, Malaga, Spain

This story actually starts back before June of 2003, when we were scheduled to go to Mombassa, Kenya. It was to be our first time in Africa. We had made the two-week reservation at the Royal Reserve Safari and Beach Club months before. Then terrorists bombed a resort twenty miles away. We decided to take a chance that it wouldn’t happen twice in the same area and planned to travel anyway. About ten days before we were to leave, British Airways announced they were canceling all flights to Nairobi because of the trouble at the British Embassy in Nairobi, end of story, almost. Then we found ourselves in Spain and only a one-hour ferry ride away from Africa. We were a little worried about our safety, but we thought that maybe we could take the ferry across, walk briefly on African soil, and take the next ferry back to Spain. We talked it over and decided to go for it. We drove the rental car to Algeciras and parked it in an all-day lot (for 19 euros). There are two ferries. One takes an hour to cross, and the other takes two and a half hours. We boarded the faster ferry (two adults for 102.30 euros) and waited for the departure. The ferry sat for an hour before finally leaving. As it turned out, that was the best thing that could have happened to us. While we were waiting to leave, we started talking to a man named Mohammed and his wife and eight-year-old daughter. They were on vacation from their home in Birmingham, England, to visit his family, who still live in Tangier, Morocco. Two hours later, when we arrived in Tangier, we helped carry their luggage to the parking area where they were met by Mohammed’s brother. To our surprise, Mohammed sent his wife and daughter with his brother and told us he wanted to be our guide to see Tangier. Using his cell phone, he reached one of his cousins who picked us up with his car. They drove us all around the city and up into the hills to see the mayor’s home and the king’s palace. He talked a man with camels into letting us ride on them. Then we returned to the city where he led us through the oldest part, the Kasbah, and introduced us to many of the vendors who appeared to be longtime friends of Mohammed, going back to when he had worked as a tourist guide in Tangier as a young man. We visited a famous hotel where American and English actors stayed while filming in the area. He spent the entire day and most of the evening showing us the city he grew up in and obviously is still in love with. Tangier is an exotic city with customs very different from our own, but he made us feel so safe and welcome there, that we will always remember it as a beautiful, exciting and friendly city. We saw such diversity there. Some of the women were dressed in burqas that covered them completely, except for their eyes. Others were dressed in modern styles. Men gathered in cafes or in groups around the city without any women included, yet women walked freely around the city, in groups of two or three, to do their shopping and take care of other business. We saw young girls leaving a school dressed in matching white smocks, some with backpacks with Barbie pictures on them. Some of the boys were playfully punching each other as boys do all over the world. The overall impression we had was of a male-dominated society, but there were definitely signs of change. We were having such a great time that our new friend had to remind us that the last ferry back to Spain leaves at 11pm. He and his cousin drove us back to the ferry building, made sure we got our passports stamped, walked us to the boat and made sure we were safely aboard before they left to join their families. The last ferry back was a slow one and took two and a half hours to make the crossing. We drove the rental car back to our resort. Thanks to Mohammed, we had a wonderful time visiting our sixth continent. Someday we hope to also visit Antarctica, too.

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