The Strait of Gibraltar: Part I

Despite the spell Marrakech cast on me (I fled the city only to return on several occasions) I managed to break away one night on a whim, buying a ticket for the overnight train to Tangiers, only leaving myself 2 hours to prepare. I bid farewell to new friends and set out on foot hoping to basque in the Moroccan air just one last time.

The hostel in Marrakech that I was staying in, Auberge Riad Douzi, rests deep within Jemaa el-Fnaa. This is where most of the action happens: snake charmers, fire breathers, food carts, and a wide display of goods from holistic herbs to camel’s milk.  Here I am, on the opposite side of town from the train station attempting to avoid too many distractions so I can make it before the train departs.

Since it would be my last jaunt through the Moroccan streets I had to document it properly.  The journey to the train station and my last few hours in Marrakech begin.

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Ma salaama, Riad Douzi! Admiring the Arabesque entrance.
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The deep, winding alleys.
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This man is prepared for a feast! In Morocco, entrepreneurs operate public ovens, for households without access to their own. It’s not uncommon to see individuals running breads to and from the ovens.
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Gare ONCF, i’m on the right track!
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Just across from the train station sits the Royal Theatre. An architectural marvel, open to all. With a open air Carthage-style amphitheater behind pillars of Ancient Egyptian influence.

Opposite the Royal Theater rests the Station Marrakech, which connects the major rail hubs of Morocco.  Inside I collapse from the heat. Within the grand hall of Station Marrakech there are a few eateries and a post office, selling maps and knick-knack souvenirs.

Moroccan Dirhams can’t legally be exported, or even imported, so it’s crucial to either buy, buy, buy or exchange your dirhams for whatever currency you would be needing next. To be completely honest my anxiety of leaving Morocco manifested in “shopaholic” tendencies! So I stock up on postage to send out all the letters I had penned out over the last two weeks.

On que, I dropped the last of my postcards into a receptacle as the 9 o’clock train rolled in. The station was nearly empty by now so I made way to the loading dock with ease. Only to be corralled to a lonely car at the end of the beast where I was escorted into a cabin of four bunks with a raging airconditioner.

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While it may be rock-hard, it beats a rock any day.

Settled in I kill the lights saying my goodbyes to Marrakech.

Within moments the lights flicker back on with a burst of energy as two rowdy Canadians hijack my cabin. Paying no attention to me they drop onto the bunks adjacent to mine in a haze of B.O. and smoke.

The lights are back out just before my eyes adjust and we travel in darkness for the next 10 hours.

Like time travel, Tangiers appears instantaneously. My roommates are gone and I’m quick to follow suit. In a dark terminal I merge with a mass of travelers moving into the city where the two Canadians, Christopher and Matt, are waiting for me. I quickly learn that in the past 72 hours they had crossed over from Spain, hit up a Tuareg colony, arranged a trek into the desert for a nights camp and now they’re “hightailing back to Espana”. Very efficient! As seasoned travelers of the region they invite me out for breakfast and ask if I’d like to tag-along in crossing Gibraltar. Bingo!

Over the ceremonial mint tea and sweet pastries we share our travelogues, fighting for who would impress who with the last word.

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After a steep climb to the summit of Tangiers it’s all downhill from here and these ladies seem to know where they’re going…

Tangiers rests atop a slanted plateau, leading you up then down from one street to the next. We pass through a few bazaars that have yet open for the day working our way to the port. I have little time to worry about missing any sights as we’re hoping to catch the boat as soon as possible.

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Bridging Africa to europe Tangiers has played a greater role than most are aware in the development of our world. And now the port town, reminiscing on a rich history, is becoming once again a cultural hub screaming “Go ahead, wax poetic!”, luring bohemians across the globe.
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Faro Square. Canons line the historic park. To keep the pirates at bay.
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This really struck a cord with me. The historical foundations have been preserved and serve their purpose well, they’re just a hell of a sight.

With the docks in sight we’re forced to decide whether to catch the express ferry or to take the economical, far slower, boat. It was 3-0 for the express route, again I chose  to follow their lead, looking for more insight on Spain. I later found out the reason for their haste was due to their sisters wedding taking place that day! Apparently they had abandoned the party three days ago for an excursion into Africa.  And to avoid all argument they hadn’t filled their sister in on any of this until just yesterday. These guys are gutsy!

With our tickets in hand we hit customs. There were a dozen ticket holders racing us to the boat and as soon as our feet landed on the stern whistles bellowed sending us off to the north!

The Canadians fall into their seats and pass out in sync. With 45 minutes to go I head out to the stern. In the wake there’s a school of dolphin and out beyond I catch one last glimpse of Morocco.

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Ma salaama al-Maghreb! Heading into unknown.

With an X over Barcelona I have no idea what to expect.

End Scene

Next time on Yallah, Bye!

The Strait Of Gibraltar: Part II

5 thoughts on “The Strait of Gibraltar: Part I

      1. That’s ideal, early spring or late fall. Very little tourism going on, the wet season is over leaving the desert in bloom.
        So I was there early March and I felt like Morocco was all mine. Rates are low on hostels/excursions, transportation is fairly comfortable and not overcrowded.
        Beyond that, you’ll have some of the most exotic and romantic cityscapes/natural environments this world has ever seen!

        Like

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