Setting Foot on a new Continent

In the train to Algarcias a young guy is sitting next to me. Our train is delayed and I ask him if the harbor is far away form the port, if I will have enough time to catch my ferry at four. Marco tells me its pretty close but that he will have to hurry anyway, as his ferry leaves in half an hour. As we talk I learn, that Marc is working for the Spanish Civil Service and he is usually stationed in Valencia, but is now heading to Ceuta due to the recent events he has to cover for a colleague who got insured and is in the hospital. Ceuta is a 18 square kilometer Spanish enclave on the African continent, at the very outer tip, boardered by Morocco. On July 26th, 800 migrants stormed the boarder fence, armed with fire and quicklime (read more here Recently Spain has replaced Italy as the main target for immigrants to arrive from Africa. I ask Marc if he is scared and he just shrugges his shoulders and says he is used to his job.

Algarcias is a typical harbor town with very little charm. Even though the harbor is close, I manage to walk in the wrong direction. I meet a woman on the street and ask her for directions. She works at the harbor and tells me I can follow her. As she leads the way I ask her if she ever took the ship to Africa. “NoNoNo for sure not. Are you crazy? Why would I want to go there? There are only bad people, thieves, bad people, lazy people and every year they have a child! Look at this cars here, all Africans, they all come here. Why do you go to Africa? Spain is beautiful, look at how beautiful Spain is, go to Galicia, its so beautiful, don’t go to Africa. If you don’t listen to me, and you still go, don’t trust anybody!!! Look at me, not a single person, do you hear me? Don’t trust them! Girls like you just dissapppear!!!! Ohhhh your are crazy to go, stay in Spain!” We arrive to the harbor, I tell her very kind that I think she would be pleasantly surprised if she would still go and that maybe just for one day she should take the two hour ferry ride in the morning and go back after one hour if its really that bad. This makes her laugh. I thank her for showing me the way and we part.

As I board the ferry, the ship is full of Moroccans and I get a first taste of hearing Arabic and seeing traditional clothes. I am beyond excited that the moment I dreamed of for such a long time is finally here. Already on ship the Moroccan custom have a table and as I receive the stamp, I wonder why it is put on the last page of the passport. It is only later that day, that I realize it is only logical as Arabic is written from right to left.

After two hours of gentle rocking I am checking my phone and can see that we are very close to land, but wait, somehow we are quite far from Tangier? I check the map closer and see that we are steering towards a place calledTangier Medaround 35 km from Tangier. I take a close look at my ticket and really, it saysTangier Medon it. We arrive to a big harbor, there is no town, just the harbour and I have not yet any Moroccan Dirham on me. When I find an ATM I am very relieved and I start to ask my way around for a bus. Unlike my assumption, hardly anyone speaks French and it takes a long time to find the bus stop. I will be honest with you, I started to get anxious and questioned myself for taking the trip alone. After a good 45 Minutes a minivan picks me up. We sit very crowded and Arabic music is playing on the stereo full blast. As we climb and descend hills along the coastline I spot Berber people who wear some of the coolest piece of clothing I have ever seen, a hooded fullback cloak with a pointy hood in bright colors. It feels a bit like being in a fantasy novel. In the van nobody speaks any other language but somehow its understood, that the last stop arrived and much to my disappointment it is a shopping mall, very far from the center where I booked the hostel. I try to catch various taxis but none of them want to go to the Medina. The anxiety still had me in its clutches and the sun started to go down. I saw a taxi with women inside, so I assumed it would be a good guess to try to go with them and luckily were also going to the Medina (old city center). The day ends with an exhausted me on the rooftop, enjoying a delicious combination of fresh flat bread and la vache qui rit, listening to the Muezzin calling for the nights prayer.

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