Not sipping tea in Casablanca

Algeciras is an industrial port town, linking southern Spain with Africa, via a 70 minute ferry crossing to Tangier, Morocco. One of the reasons that we had decided to spend a few days in this Moorish enclave was because of its proximity to Morocco, allowing us to experience a bit of Arab culture and tradition in a uniquely Spanish setting. The allure of a day trip to Tangier offered us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in Muslim culture and catch a glimpse of the exotic, mysterious, and often misunderstood, world of Arabian society.

 Having been plagued by torrential rain for the past couple of weeks, we were delighted when the sun peeked through a cloud and playfully teased us for two glorious sun-drenched days. What a treat it was to bask in the sunshine and soak up the long-awaited Mediterranean warmth. Casting sightseeing aside, we scrambled to set up camp at the hotel pool, our sun-starved Canadian flesh luxuriously melting in the sun’s golden ray embrace.  Confident that the sunshine would linger for at least another day, we scheduled a ferry crossing to Morocco for the following morning.  We couldn’t contain our excitement of finally being able to experience for ourselves the seductive allure of this Muslim corner of the world.  But alas (and yes, I’m going to get dramatic now), the fates had other plans for us, which didn’t include a magical carpet ride to Casablanca.

Rising early in order to catch the 8:00am ferry to Tangier, we awoke to the now all too familiar grey skies and drizzling rain. The sun had formally bid adieu and scurried to hide behind a rain cloud, giving full reign to the storm Gods to wreck havoc upon our impending ferry crossing. Our enchanting camel ride into the land of the Arabian nights was clearly not meant to be. After all, there was absolutely no way that I was going to embark on a ferry crossing through stormy waters, piercing cold and howling winds. Envisioning the worst, I had already pictured the tiny vessel desperately rollicking through the waves, eventually capsizing and flinging my pink sneakered self into the dark and frigid waters. Sipping tea in Casablanca would have to wait.

My mantra “the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain” had clearly not failed me and had faithfully followed me from Barcelona to Alicante and now to Algeciras.  Having squandered the first couple of days luxuriously basking in the sunshine, sightseeing was definitely on the agenda for the remainder of the day. I would be lying if I said that the city was breathtakingly beautiful, which it was not, it was a gritty and often-times ugly town, its appeal characterized by the hard-working migrant labourers who journeyed through this vibrant port.  A blend of local Spaniards, hijab attired Moroccans and backpacking tourists provided a melange of old and new world cultures that contributed to the uniqueness of Algeciras.

 Palm-tree lined Plaza Alta, the city’s main square, showcasing its colourful mosaic tiled benches, impressive fountain and magnificent street lamps was a surprising highlight, as was the tiny 18th century Church of Senora de la Palma.

There is only so much sightseeing one is able to do in the pouring rain and so we devoted the remainder of the day to darting in and out of the multitude of Moroccan tea shops, cafes, tapas bars and fabric shops that littered the laneways.

Had I known better, I would have thought that I had magically placed my pink sneakered foot in a bustling Moroccan market, as my senses were invaded by the tantalizing aroma of falafel, shawarma and mint tea. Shops displayed both Arabic and Spanish signs.  Moroccans attired in flowing jallabahs conversing in Spanish with the locals were not an unusual sight in this culturally diverse town.  Shopkeepers graciously welcomed us, openheartedly inviting us into their shops, urging us to linger and stay a while and seek refuge from the elements.

The warmth and hospitality of everyone that we encountered on that gloomy day more than made up for the dismal weather and perhaps it was meant to be that we discover a little bit of Morocco right here in Algeciras.

 A fitting way in which to spend our last evening in this Arabian inspired corner of the world, as we did not yet know what adventures lay ahead in our journey out of Algeciras.

It would have been awesome to have been able to see that camel, though...

To be continued....

Come enjoy the mystique of Morocco in Algeciras with me....

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