The experience of Tangier Morocco is one that I approach with humility and awe. The place has a feeling of an ancient and emerging holy city situated beautifully at the junction of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic. The winds provide a constant flow of fragrant air that gives one the urge to breathe in deeply and feel relaxed. The sky is perfect blue cast against the sea and mountains of Spain in the horizon to the north. The sea can be seen at a variety of junctions in the city. The buildings have a distinct architecture that radiate the Muslim and Arabic cultures in white with walls and ornate shapes in the windows and details of the floors, ceilings, balconies, walls, and rooftops. The vegetation is either scrubby bush or lovely, with large trees with huge trunks indicating their age. Mourad explained that many of these incredible trees have been deforested due to the tremendous growth in the city. I am here on Sabbatical with my son, Austin, a recent college graduate.
Mourad, who is now a UNE employee, is a wonderful, wise, kind, respectful, and thoughtful man. He speaks quietly and calmly and appears to anticipate our every need. He has been hired as the campus manager for UNE Morocco, and he is very good at what he does here in Morocco. He teaches patiently as he shows my son, Austin and I how to do everything here; from opening our apartment (not as easy as it sounds as we navigate a building entrance door, six floors, and an apartment door with four locks) to ordering food. The mosques are multiple and scattered about the city. Today there were prayers and chanting five times because it is the holy day, Friday. Mourad brought his daughter to school in the morning, later she came home from noon-2:00 in order to pray with the family. He met us as he was bringing her back to school at 2:00. The private school she attends is bustling with children in an open air corridor that appears to function like a playground as children bustle about. The classrooms are nestled around this free space.
The city has curving streets with roundabouts, walls, gardens, and marketplaces. Many young people live in Morocco, a fact that is obvious as one walks the streets and was confirmed by Mourad. Children play in groups, laughing and climbing about the curbs and walls. Some children stay close by their parents; mothers are very nurturing and appear to watch their children closely. The young boys are very affectionate with one another and can often be seen arm in arm or with an elbow on a friend’s shoulder. This is also seen in the adult men, as men greet one another in the city. The women appear more subdued with affection and even smiles in the streets. The affection is seen with the children. Clothing and attire is highly diverse. Men wear traditional robes or shirts with trousers or jeans. Middle aged women wear traditional robes, slippers, and scarves called a “hijab”. Younger women wear European style skirts, leggings, tops, shoes, although still more modest than in the US. Scarves or the hijab is commonly worn by women whether on their heads or around their necks, as I am doing as well. I chuckled to myself after a day in Tangier with the lovely, strong winds; as I thought the women were quite wise to adopt the custom of wearing scarves to protect their head and hair while out in the streets of Tangier.
The streets are alive with activity and energy as people move about with purpose. There are many tea houses with rows of men outside drinking tea as part of the daily routine. I asked Mourad, and he told me that many men frequent the same tea houses and sit in the same place to discuss religion, politics, and family. We drank tea today in a traditional tea house overlooking the old part of the city, the Mediterranean Sea, and Spain. We asked for cake, and Mourad needed to go across the street, as the tea houses indeed…only serve tea! Making tea is a valued cultural activity that Mourad will teach me at a later time. It is very good, sweet and minty; made with au gout du monde, a local green brought into the culture from France. The food is good. We have flat breads, coffee and tea in our apartment, along with fruits and assorted cookies. Austin has Coca Cola and Oreos. We have eaten Moroccan Salad which is a chopped salad of greens, cucumber, red onion, and tomatoes with vinegar and oil base (heavier on the vinegar). The salad is topped with a white cheese somewhere in between feta and goat cheese, very tasty. We have had flatbread pizzas, spaghetti with a spicy sauce, and Panini sandwiches; a taste of home with a Moroccan twist, seasoned with spices to make them more unique to the region!
So much for the first day! More to come!