Tangier Port, Morocco was by far the most educational travel destination we’ve experienced as an entire family. It was the most exotic location we visited together and the epiphanies we encountered during a globally- political time in 2010 spanned spiritual, historical, and cultural natures.
We took a ferry boat from Tariffa, Spain to Tangiers Port, Morocco; a mere 35 minute ride. Our tour guide met us with his van driver and I recommend doing this same format if you go to this wonderful country in Northwest Africa. He was able to get us to the front of the line at the restaurants, bazaars, caves, etc…and even got us in the “fast lane” on the ferry boarding later dealing with our passports, etc. The vocabulary, mythology, history, factoids and cultural lessons we learned that day made our heads spin. My teenage son took this photo just as the divers were in action. The shape of this cave opening happens to be the mirror image of Africa with Madagascar next to it! Ironic!!
The cave of Hercules overlooking the Atlantic ocean and Mediterranean Sea had non-stop visual details. Greek mythology was incorporated in this thrilling cave which also had markets inside of it! Our Moroccan multi-course meal at the famous restaurant, Popeye’s, was unforgettable and we still talk about it! Popeye’s had a line around the block full of customers waiting to get in. After hours of sightseeing, this meal break was exactly what we needed and it gave our tour guide time for his afternoon prayers. Smoked almonds, salsa, swordfish, figs, dessert w/ honey, melon and a non-alcoholic fruit drink was just some of the gastronomic extravaganza!
Moroccan food is flavorful and full of spices but interestingly enough, without salt and pepper and without alcohol. We embraced every detail of it!
heavenly dessert with honey almonds, sauce and dates swordfish and shark delicious figs naan bread. …the best! melon with knives. Otherwise; no utensils!
The farmers market taught us so much—we ate cactus pear from the food booth of Berber village women.
The Berber women’s hats have pompons on them, similar to the South American style; probably due to the nomadic traveling the explorers did across the continents bringing back styles from foreign places.
The word “Morocco” means “the West” (and it’s in Northwestern Africa). Morocco has both Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea coastlines. The Cave of Hercules that we went into overlooks where the Atlantic and the Mediterranean meet. This picture was on the cave.
The cactus pear fruit we ate at the farmers market came right out of a cactus. The Berber women who come down from the mountains worked at the farmers market. Berber people inhabit the Rif Mountains and Atlas Mountains. The official languages in Morocco are Berber, Arabic, Moroccan Arabic and French.
Wherever we went, our tour guide, Said (Saw-eed), and others greeted each other with “Salam Alaikum”. It translates to “peace to you.” People use it as freely as other cultures use “goodbye”, “hello”, “Shalom” or “Peace.” People respond with “Wa-alaikum salam”-(“peace unto you.”) We asked Said, “what is that greeting?”. He explained to us in detail about how peace is at the core of his religion. He asked us what our culture’s equivalent might be and we answered, “God be with you.”
When we passed by mosques, I asked him what the significance of the colored tiles were and he explained that the colors are colors of peace. He also expressed that he believes we are all brothers and sisters in paradise. I asked him if that meant, “all paths lead to God?” He thought so, personally.
When we departed that day on our ferry boat and bid the guide farewell, my husband shook his hand and said, “Salam Alaikum” and he responded, “God be with you.” I found this moment transformative for my family, our epiphanies, our journey and our global understanding during this year of 2010 in a time of political turmoil in the world. It was a healing moment for us and good closure to a day that had moments of uncertainty for my husband in particular.
I looked into my travel journal about our Moroccan experience and found these excerpts which reminded me of specific details we learned: Several nations had influence over Morocco at one time. Winston Churchill lived there and liked to paint there. Tangiers very hilly–they call it the “San Francisco of Morocco” or the Rome of Morocco because of the 7 hills. 7 is very lucky for them. There are 7 entrances to the old town. There are 7 stars/points in their star.
We went to a beach area where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean. Jacques Costeau discovered a fresh spring that exists at that point. We rode camels on a hill overlooking this beach. My youngest son’s face was euphoric just standing next to the camel and seeing these creatures for the first time. My husband’s reaction was priceless, too. I had ridden camels before but it was still a thrill. There was a 4 month old baby camel that intrigued us. Many children worked in this area and that made an impression on us. The 2nd language spoken here is French.Our guide took us to the Cave of Hercules where the legend is that Hercules rested here after he did his 7 deeds. Atlas, who held up the world, “named” the Atlantic Ocean and the Atlas Mountains. Tangier was the name of Hercules’s wife, therefore the city is named Tangiers. The cave now has shops in it but at one time the Berber tribes lived there. There’s a spot referred to as “Hercules’s chair” where he watched the sunset through a cave hole. There’s a natural spring source in the cave from mountain water. We watched the divers doing their tricks against the backdrop silhouette.
We ate at the famous restaurant, “Popeye’s Ristorante Popular Mediteraneo”. This cafe was tiny but packed with a line out the door and around the corner of customers waiting to get in. Our guide, when he returned from his afternoon prayers, showed us the room where Popeye makes his herbal juice. It’s a 24 hour boiling process with fruits, herbs and palmetto in it.
After the Berber farmers market, we went to the Old Town Bazaar! Our guide explained the Jewish Ghetto architecture, alleys, doors, nooks, etc. The details –cultural and historic– and the vocabulary were so in-depth. We learned the meaning of the word “Gibraltar”: “Jabal” means mountain. We learned the symbolism of the colors of their Moroccan tiles: Green= peace (Islamic). Blue= came from Phoenicia. In the bazaar, we bought pottery, vases, tablecloths, etc…and looked at amazing rugs while the boys were happily drinking the sodas they were served.
Welcome to Morocco by Fordyce
The Adventures of Seymour and Hau by Morse and McDade
The Street Cats of Marrakech by Stevenson
© Gina Michalopulos Kingsley
Stories like this can be found in the book, A Magic Carpet Ride by Gina Michalopulos Kingsley. Proceeds go to various charities.