Tanger, Northern Morocco
After a super long 35 minute ferry ride from Spain, I arrived at the very sunny port town of Tanger, Morocco. I hadn’t even made it out of the secured area of the port before the touts started. The first person to stop me was a registered tour guide who promised the best tour of Tanger, of course. He let me continue on my way once I’d told him that I was meeting a friend in town, so that was nice. Then there were the familiar taxi calls on the way out and once I finally made it to the road outside the Tanger port, an older man stopped me because he thought that I looked lost. He gave me directions to the medina (city centre), then told me not to trust anyone. Thanks? I think.
Finding the bus I needed to catch to my friends place in the suburbs of Tanger proved to be a little more problematic than one would think. Firstly, it was almost impossible to find someone who understood English, as everyone was expecting me to speak French. Then I was sent in the wrong direction several times by people that wanted to help, but obviously had no idea where the bus left from. After an hour of walking around Tanger and bugging strangers for directions, I almost accidently happened upon the correct bus stop, to my relief.
Happy that things in Tanger should start to get more simple from then on, I cheerily got on the bus when it arrived and told the driver where I needed to go. The only problem was that the driver didn’t know the name of the place I had given him. Firstly I thought I was pronouncing it wrong, so I wrote it down for him, but he still had no idea. So then a nice lady on the bus who knew a little English, went around the bus asking everyone where the place was. It took nearly the entire journey, but she found one person at the back who knew and thanks to a wonderful group effort, I was finally able to get to my destination.
My friend, Noissair came to meet me and we went back to his place where I met his lovely housemates, who chatted with me for hours. They were very happy to share their thoughts with me, especially about what most Moroccans think of the French language. Apparently, there’s a bit of a movement to try to change the second language in Morocco from French to English, as many think French as useless for communicating with the world, particularly in business settings.
Such a challenging and interesting day had left me exhausted, so I retired to bed to ready myself for the adventures to come.
The Challenges of Getting to Casablanca
I got myself back to the intercity bus station in the city centre, where I couldn’t walk two steps without someone trying to get me on their bus. It seemed that buses to Casablanca run extremely regularly, so I decided to walk around for a bit and maybe find something to eat before getting on a bus. Well, that did not turn out as planned due to the fact that people were smoking inside all of the cafes near the station.
Seeing as lunch was a bust, I decided to change some money, but that also didn’t go according to plan. The first 2 places I went to, that looked very much like currency exchange places, didn’t exchange currency, so I went to a bank who had a problem with their system and couldn’t change currency at the time. I finally got to a bank that could change currency and they wouldn’t accept one of my notes, because it wasn’t new. Luckily I had more where that came from.
Back at the bus station I was again accosted by the first person upon entering, but they got me on a bus leaving within 5 minutes that was 10 dirhams cheaper than the one someone had tried to get me on earlier. Before we left the station, a young boy got on the bus selling ‘Kleenex’, which is apparently the name applied to all tissue products in Morocco. He was followed closely by an older guy selling portable USB chargers. Those guys certainly did their market research!
To break up an otherwise long and boring bus ride, the bus stopped on the side of the highway for about 20 minutes while a woman argued with the bus staff because she wanted them to drop her in a town that the bus wasn’t scheduled to go to. Many passengers got off the bus to watch the exchange because, as I was informed by the young man siting next to me, Moroccans love to watch arguments.
After the commotion was finally over and we started moving, the young man, who was by far the best English speaker I had come across in Morocco so far, started telling me about how he hates the French language and therefore doesn’t speak it. He also revealed that he’d learnt all his English from watching television and movies, because the English taught at schools isn’t nearly good enough for use in the real world.
What I’ve learned about Morocco so far –
– schedules are just a guide and rarely adhered to
– simple things are way more challenging than you would expect.
Let’s see what else I can learn before I’m through. The Moroccan adventures continue here