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Sahara

Day 4: Tangier to Chefchaouen

Michael Palin - SaharaWoken again by the intensity of the fresh-risen sun, a glare so fierce I think there might be a blaze outside my window. But it's bright rather than hot, and in the shaded street outside the hotel I can understand why the men are wearing thick jackets and have the hoods of their burnouses pulled up.

'Morocco is a cold country with a hot sun.' Jonathan Dawson squints into the light. 'That's what someone told me when I came here. If you're sitting in the shade over there you might be freezing your tits off, but when you're sitting out here it's hot, you know.'

We're on the terrace of the Café Tingis in the Petit Socco, a square once renowned for all sorts of naughtiness. Jonathan, with his piercing blue eyes, swept-back silvery hair and air of languid amusement, seems to thrive on Tangier. He came here in 1992 to do a piece for the Evening Standard and stayed. He sighs a little regretfully as his café au lait arrives.

'They used to sell booze, all these caffs.' In 1956, after Morocco won independence, liquor was banned from the medina and the party, if not over, at least went underground.

'So Tangier is a shadow of its former racy self?'

Jonathan rakes the square with a half-smile. 'Everything is here if you want it. You can have boys, girls, cockerels or anything you want...'

'Drugs?'

'It's not, er...legal, but it's sort of slightly not illegal. I don't encourage it,' he says, before adding cheerfully, 'I've got a great friend coming to stay. She's a dope-smoking grandmother. You should be interviewing her.'
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 4
  • Country/sea: Morocco
  • Place: Tangier
  • Book page no: 23

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