Please forgive the lateness of these next 3 blog posts! Our time in Morocco has been so intense and quick moving, there has been no opportunity to gather thoughts, let alone put them on paper. Today I am happy to reflect on those amazing three days in the cool of a light filled, wood gabled hotel room in Valencia, Spain.
Since reading The Drifters, by James Michener, way back when, Morocco has sounded like mystery and magic to us. When we were figuring out where to go on this trip, this was my first choice...bar none. And when we were deciding where in Morocco to go...Tangier, Casablanca and Fes were the ones we chose. Marrakesh, another magical city will have to wait for another visit...and we will be back!
The flight from Seville to Tangier is very short. As we were flying over the Strait of Gibraltar, it was easy to see the proximity of Morocco to southern Spain, and why they have been so connected over centuries. As close as the two countries are, I also became very aware that we were crossing a great divide--between Europe to Africa. And at the same time, we were experiencing a powerful connection--between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea! What a pivotal spot!
Tangier is clearly a port city, bustling...almost frenzied in activity.
Many thanks to Carol Malt, a Pensacola resident who lives also in Tangier for part of each year. Mellen Press, the publisher of one of her books, describes her like this: “Dr. Carol Malt holds a Ph.D. from the University of Miami. She has been a Museum Consultant, Journalist, Cultural Planner, and an Adjunct Professor at the University of West Florida in the History Department and Women’s Studies.” (I’ve just ordered one of Carol’s books, “The Free Woman”). Carol sent us many recommendations for our time in Tangier and especially suggested visiting the American Legation Museum (TALIM) in the Medina and meeting its Director, John Davison.
As soon as we settled into the Hilton we grabbed a cab and headed to the Museum, having called John beforehand. John has been a Peace Corps volunteer and a Foreign Service Officer. He spent time generously with us, giving us a tour of the museum--which also serves as an educational center and library, and supports educational programs especially for women, and now children, in the old city. The Legation has the very special status as the first US property owned outside the United States. The countries of the US and Morocco have been friends a very long time. In fact, Morocco was the first country in the world to recognize the US as an independent country...in 1777!
The museum is fascinating, and the photos will show you much of what we saw...including toy soldier dioramas of Malcolm Forbes, historical documents and photos, and the doors that Carol contributed to the museum to honor her late husband.
John invited us to the room on the roof for a cup of espresso and a beautiful view as we ended our tour. He recommended a restaurant that a friend of his owns in Casablanca for our next night and even made reservations for us. Thank you, John! And all the best.
After our visit, we went walking through the Medina and found our way to the square near the Grand Socco (souk) where we sat in the shade outside a cafe with mint tea and pear cake. It was Friday, the special day of prayer for Muslims, and we heard the call from the minaret for the special noon prayer, called Jumu'ah. As we were right beside the Mosque, we saw about 50 men congregated by the wall facing Mecca, saying the prayer together. The quiet, the heat, the chanting all absorbed us, we were suspended in the moment. And when it was over, the square came back alive, and shoppers bustled again.
Carol had made several suggestions for restaurants in Tangier, including El Morocco Club. In Tangier, we do as Carol suggests! (smile)...so we walked to the restaurant to make reservations. It is situated right by the Kasbah (most commonly the citadel of a city). Of course, I asked Julian to “take me to the Kasbah”, and he did! By then, we were ready for some cooling from the hot sun and headed back to the hotel by taxi.
El Morocco Club specializes in classic Moroccan food, with a modern twist. Julian, Travis and I enjoyed every surprising bite, (including pomegranate seeds, orange flower water and spicy couscous) and appreciated the humor of Soufiane, and his efforts to make the meal special...and his introduction to the owner, Vincent.
We headed back to the cool comfort of the Hilton, feeling full and grateful for the gracious help of Carol and John, who made the visit a very special one.
Next? Time to “Play it again, Sam”