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Sahara

Day 3: Tangier

Tangier, Morocco 
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Catching up with the diary in the corner of a café in the casbah, Tangier. Wonderful mint tea, crumbling murals, and, as Spanish is the second language here, Barcelona FC posters on the wall.
Michael Palin - SaharaThe El Minzah Hotel opens onto a busy street leading up from the port and the market. There are cars, but they're well outnumbered by human traffic. Berber women, tough, pugnacious and wide, plod up the hill as if wearing all the clothes they own at the same time. Their low centres of gravity allow them to carry virtually anything. I wouldn't be surprised to see one of them with a small car on her back. The men, by contrast, don't carry, they push. Covered from head to foot in thick woollen burnouses (the wind that's keeping the clouds away is brisk and chilly), they steer rubber-wheeled handcarts full of bits of this and that up the centre of the road. Among the crowd are men in sharp suits doing nothing but standing and looking around. The admirable Alan, our fixer, tells me they're probably policemen. At dinner last night a local man went out of his way to deny that Morocco was a police state.

'Not at all,' he insisted, 'it is a well-policed state.'

There's an Anglican church nearby which was painted by Matisse, one of a number of artists, from Delacroix to Francis Bacon, drawn to Tangier by the quality of light and the tolerant hedonistic atmosphere, which also attracted writers like Bowles and Joe Orton and William Burroughs. Putting thoughts of hedonism aside for an hour or two, I fish out my only tie and walk over there for Sunday Service. My parents would have been proud of me.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 3
  • Country/sea: Morocco
  • Place: Tangier
  • Book page no: 19

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