Reflections on Tangier Morocco

Tangier is growing on me.
We paid a visit to the Royal Palace Kasbah, which has amazing architecture and intricate plaster carvings, marble stone, and painted wood carvings.

It also hosts a magnificent collection of antiquities.
In a central courtyard, it has a beautiful large mosaic in the middle of the floor, of a sailing boat, with naked long haired mermaids, maidens and large ocean waves.

The Mosaic is in great shape, considering how old it is, and taking into consideration that fact that Islam took over Tangier in the 7th century.
In Islamic tradition, no artwork of nudity OR any artwork that depicted the faces or shapes of human beings, was allowed.

While waiting for the museum to open, we drank mint tea in the blue room of the “Blue Cafe,” located across from the Palace.
It had steep stairs leading up to a wonderful terrace with views of the Kasbah and further into the Straits Of Gibraltar and the sea.

We strolled down the hundreds of stone steps from the Kasbah into the Medina, and wandered into a beautiful decorated restaurant named “Le Nabab.”
We ate a fabulous lunch of Harira- Moroccan bean soup, an eggplant salad, a Vegetable Tajine with preserved lemon and olives, and a pumpkin and vegetable Couscous with warm onions and raisins cooked with cinnamon, followed by fresh oranges and… The obligatory mint tea.

I must have drunk almost a hundred cups of mint tea since we landed in Morocco a week ago…. And we have six more weeks to go….

We also tried and ate dozens of freshly baked cookies of all kinds, filled with almonds, pistachios, coconut, and nuts.. Covered in chocolate and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

We ate all the sorts of breads being baked or fried by local bakeries.
There is a famous corn bread that looks like a thick yellow pancake.
A fried bread that looks like a layered Filo Bread.
A variety of breads that are the same size as a pita bread, but only thicker and with a crust.
A bread that is similar to an Ethiopian bread made with yeast, which is spongy and usually round.
And an assortment of French breads.

At home, we minimize our consumption of bread, and prefer to eat whole grains like rice, but here in Morocco, bread is king….
It is eaten at EVERY meal.
A Tajine is traditionally served with bread, and with no utensils.
The bread is torn into pieces and used to scoop up the stew along with the sauce.

I am not counting calories… After all it is a trip and and an adventure….
And the exploration of a new place, does includes trying new culinary joys….
I do realize that a trip is not a good time for a diet…

But I must admit that I do feel that I already gained weight…
It reminds me of a joke.
I forget now who said it:

“I once decided to go on a serious diet for Fourteen days.
I swore off all heavy drinking and avoided rich food.
After serious depravation for fourteen days,
I lost EXACTLY two weeks…”

We befriended Abdul, a young Moroccan waiter who asked Jules if he could use his IPad to access his Facebook account.
He spoke pretty good English, and said that he does not have a computer at home, so he only uses the Internet in cafes.

He assumed we still have Facebook accounts, and we did not explain why we have closed our Facebook accounts……
I guess you have to come full circle, to even understand our over-privileged point of view…

We took a long evening stroll along the sidewalks of the Nouvelle Cite’ – the New City in Tangier.
We saw a French bookstore with a book signing by a a French Ex- Pat.
We noticed that all of the people in that bookstore were French also… Other Ex- Pats.

In my own observation, these Ex- Pats comes to Morocco with a dream….
They follow in the footsteps of writers and stories they heard, that touched their hearts……..
They hand over small amounts of money, and buy glorious homes that have faded…
They then hand over exuberant amounts of money to fix their glorious homes and bring their beauty back into a livable and charming condition…..
And after the fantasy quiets down…
They are faced with the REALITY of their dreams and how unfulfilling they can be…

The charm, aesthetics and cultural change, that was so fresh at first…..finally fades and now they live alone in overly renovated grand homes, that need constant maintenance, upkeep and supervision.

There are woodworms and weather damage and corrosion as well.
It is hard to get good HONEST help for cleaning and for maintenance….
One person does all the cleaning and maintenance of her large place, including that of her guests….. and another Ex-Pat admitted that he changed cleaning girls so many times, he stopped counting….

Another sobering reality is that the best places to live are located in the ancient Medinas.

Because they are ancient, there is constant need for renovations.
Which means that on any and every given day of the month, some house within your vicinity, is under construction and the sound of hammers and construction workers yelling, starts at 9am and only quiets down at sundown.

But it is not just the noise…. It is also the constant stone, plaster and wood dust in the air that settles through every open window and gets into your eyes and lungs…

I guess I have to admit that for Western people who have very little money, Morocco may sound tempting.
For about €150,000- €300,000 you can buy a lovely Riad in the Marrakech Medina.

This amount of money does not go very far in the West…and would rarely buy you true luxury, as it could in Morocco.
But as I observe, it does come with a big price, of isolation (because the locals do not really mix with the Ex-Pats) of cultural differences, of religion differences, or of different sensibilities… To name a few….

They do live in sobering isolation, or in their own social community, comprised of other Ex-Pats…..
Recognizing the burden of their huge houses, they often convert them into B&B’s and guest houses.

It is a big trick that the ego plays on us…. It pulls us into traps of believing that life ELSEWHERE is so much better…..

We may feel a strong urge to grow, to take our lives into our hands…. to chart our own destiny, instead of just continuing in what our parents started, or where we grew up….
So we listen to the whisper of our ego…. Pulling us to remote places….. With promises of interest that will never fade…. Of adventures…..
Only to realize in the end…. That there are NO earthly paradises……

Paradise is a state of mind….. That we need to cultivate…. And KEEP on vigilantly cultivating…..

The world around us matters very little when you are able to touch the paradise WITHIN…..

On the OTHER HAND….
Observation about somebody’s life can not fairly be done from outside.

There is always inner growth and benefits to gain from every experience that we go through….
It may not seem so at the time, but every experience has a hidden gift for us…

It may be a gift of knowledge…
A gift of wisdom….. and we are constantly growing, moving and expanding our horizons,…..opening our hearts and minds, by the demands of the experiences that we go through….

We are ALWAYS at the right place at the right time!

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