I was so inspired I changed my plans for the day and went over to Morrocco. I´d had this crossing in my mind´s eye for some time so it would never match exactly and although I had a good time it might be worth mentioning a few of the differences between the apprehension and the reality. For one thing the boat was closed and didn´t really allow you to go on deck. Much of the first part of the crossing was spent standing in the queue to have your passport stamped. This took some time and when I got to the front of the queue the guy crossed out my surname, Drummond, from the top line of the imigration card and wrote ´Drummond´in its place. Perplexed but free I watch the coastline develop into the continent of Africa.
Getting out of the port was tricky with numerous check poimts and passport related activities. On the outsdide there was quite a lot of opportunistic tourist hunting going on. I was civil to the first guy who collared me and ended up having to be quite rude to the guy after that. I told him I didn´t want a guide. I learned the word for ´no´in Morrocan (la) and repeated it several times. He said he like the sound of ´no´ and that no didn´t mean no in Africa. He got some of my emotion in the end and left it at that.
Walking through the old town was sort of a hustle competition with plenty of people aiming to engage the intrepid tourist in all sorts of haggles and offers. I was offered drugs as well which I politlely refused. I bought a Morrocan football shirt which I hope is an orignal. I went up the hill and found an old English church, St Andrew´s, where a caretaker called Mustapha showed me around. He´s been there 45 years he told me. The church has the Lord´s prayer written in Arabic and an Islamic design to the altar which is quite striking. A nice way of acknowlidging the local life. It also features verses from the Koran on the back wall which don´t seem quite right to me but I guess that´s up to them.
I strolled around the old palace, the Kasbah, hoping for a place to wash my hands but instead was presented with an interesting and at times beautiful run down old castle. Plenty of swirly Arabic styles patterns on the floors and in the ceilings and a description of the many layers of history in the area around Tangier, including a Roman period. Hummed the old clash tune to myself as I walked round of course, wondering if this was the Kasbah they were planning to rock. The other song I had in my head all day was Jackson Browne´s song where he sings ´You say Morroco and that da da da dine, I haven´t seen Morrocco for a long long time,´and I quote.
This was good value: getting a bottle of mineral water from a very local looking cafe, with the guy having to run across the square to get it as he had run out. That cost about 60p but I wanted to give him extra for all the effort.
It was striking though how different the people were though. Considering the stretch of water is only a few miles wide the gulf in development and culture is immense. I wonder if there is anywhere in the world that presents such a divide for such a small geographical distance. I am not including the English-Welsh border or anywhere like that either. I strongly got the feeling that it was tough to make a living in Morrocco and in fact one person told me that as a fact. I felt grateful to be part of Europe and could understand clearly why people want to live here legally or otherwise.
Returning to Tarifa was great with a slight sense of sadness that things are so relatively familiar compared with camels on the beach and Kaftans, tall Minarets and fake DVD; pointed slippers and hookahs to blow (which I didn´t); the vastness of the continent beyond and the constant sense of gravity with being a rich foreigner; a target, an opportunity and a mystery.
The sand in my shoes don´t come from Europe.