The mad dash through Europe has hit me harder than I thought; the morning after my arrival in Tanger, I have a bit of a cold. This isn’t made much better by me staying in bed and not eating or drinking enough during the day, so by the end of the afternoon I decide to go out and exploren the Ville Nouvelle a bit. It’s full of Art Deco buildings with an Arabized twist in details such as doors or windowsills. It’s also full of people; during the day it’s busy, but in the evening it’s absolutely crowded. Seemingly all the young people of Tanger gather here to eat, shop, flirt, and generally enjoy the good life. Moroccans are nothing if not commercially minded, and the main street of the Ville Nouvelle, Avenue Pasteur, is lined with all kinds of shops, restaurants, cybercafes, shoe polishers, children or women selling individual packagesof tissues, and more. The facades of the buildings are mostly obscured by neon signs and other makeshift advertisements which the entrepreneurs hope will lure the emerging middle class into their businesses. My personal favourite is the neurosurgical clinic in an appartment just above the store selling Armani coats for € 20 and Rolex watches for € 17. Also for emergencies! Very tempting, but I think I’ll pass… Despite all the hustle and bustle of the place, it feels quite friendly. Since I’m not walking around with my backpack anymore I’m hardly ever bothered by a hustler, unless it’s one of the feline kind. Moroccans really, really like cats it seems, and (street?) cats are petted and fed wherever they go. The cats see every human as a potential source of scraps of meat and regularly come begging when I am standing still or sitting down somewhere. Most of my excursions only take up a few hours since my cold lasts longer than I expected.
On the morning of my third full day in Tanger I feel good enough to go out for an entire day. I decide to finally go into the medina. It’s a maze of little twisting streets and alleys and shops and cafes, and I enjoy just getting lost while experiencing Medina life. Thankfully the medina isn’t too large, and it’s located on a hillside, so as long as you keep walking up or down, you’re bound to find an exit somewhere. It’s also free from the hustle I expected; only in the shopping streets are shopowners trying to lure me inside, but no one follows me around. Away from the shopping streets, it’s wonderfully quiet and uncrowded. People come home with groceries and have a chat with the neighbours, children play in the streets, and cats get pampered as usual. It’s not nearly the madhouse I was expecting and fearing. The facades and doorwaysoften resemble those of buildings in Spain or Portugal, which is not surprising given the mixed histories of Spain, Portugal and this corner of Morocco (in fact some parts of the style that’s often seen as Iberic is actually of Islamic origin) but just as often they are covered with mosaics or woodwork in Islamic patterns. I also notice many doorposts having a nail or hook that’s covered with fraying threads of fabric in many colours; perhaps this is supposed to bring good luck? After a few hours of getting lost I enjoy a spiced meat sandwich and a mint tea at a cafe in the Petit Socco, the small square in the medina. The quiet mood is regularly interrupted by calls to prayer. It’s friday, which is to Islam what sunday is to Christianity. Every once in a while a large group of men goes into or comes out of the local mosque; I’m not entirely sure, but it seems that the population of the medina attends the mosque in phases instead of all at once. I don’t see any women go inside; perhaps they have a different entrance or time