It was 6:30am in Marbella, Spain on the 8th of June 2017 when my alarm went off, having had a minimal amount of sleep I just about got up and got ready, my Dad and I were being picked up on main-street Marbella at 7:30 by a tour group named 'CostAfrica' and going to Tangier, Morocco for the day. After a quick breakfast and the preparation of our lunch we left our apartment and arrived at the pick-up point for 7:20.
It was 7:45 and there was no sign of the bus, it was supposed to come 15 minutes ago. All of a sudden an orange coach with 'Tanger' written on the front whizzes past. Dad and I instantaneously begin to think that we have been forgotten about - after all the only contact we had with the CostAfrica was through a dodgy chat pop up on their website two days previously. We both decided that we would wait until 8am for the bus and leave if it didn't show up.
7:57am, the bus pulls up (hallelujah), the Spanish guide jumps out and lists our names, we confirm and hop on, securing our seats. The bus came from Malaga and picked up people all along the way and it turned out Dad and I were the last two to get on. There were about 40 others in total. The guide took our passports for roughly 10 minutes and handed us the emigration forms to fill out for entrance to, and departure from, Morocco. The bus arrived in Tarifa at 9:30, this is where the boat would depart from. Dad and I seemed to be the only two on the bus that didn't rush for the toilet!
The boat journey - trouble!
After some standard passport and bag checks we boarded the boat. The wind was unbelievable, powerful enough to make you lose your footing. The boat left a few minutes after 10am and began the 30km trip across to Tangier. Everyone had to get their passport stamped while on the boat so about halfway through the journey, Dad and I went to get this done. The queue was a bit of a nightmare but after 15 minutes it was our turn. The man was grumpy towards us because we were supposed to have the guide with us (apparently). He stamped Dads passport and then took mine and had a look, he fiddled around on the computer for a moment and then put my passport aside. He said he would finish it in a minute as he called the next person forward and proceeded to finish off the queue of people before coming back to me. He asked me to take a seat and went off with my passport. Despite knowing I was completely innocent, I began to get a bit nervous. He came back 2 or 3 minutes later and made a phone call. Speaking in Arabic he began spelling out my name to whoever he was talking to and mentioning where I was from. After a few minutes, he hung up and began to stamp my passport etc. He then said that I had a similar name to someone that was wanted in Morocco! He apologised and we shook hands, he was nice about it, which was the main thing. At this stage we had pulled into the port in Tangier.
Tangier bus tour and camel ride
When we disembarked there was another passport check, I was a bit nervous there would be more hassle but everything was ok. Once again our bags went through an X-ray machine however I found it ridiculous how the officers didn't seem to be paying attention to the monitors (not that I had anything to hide).
Our tour group was handed over to a Moroccan tour guide, she was oldish and seemed as if she really didn't want to be doing the tour. We boarded another bus and set off around Tangier. One thing that fast came apparent was that there is a distinct divide between rich and poor in Tangier. The bus drove through a few 'rich' areas where we were told the cost per square meter was roughly between two and four thousand euro. There was an abundance of workers in these areas cutting the grass, sweeping the road, etc. We stopped in a car park where a few Moroccans had some camels that cost €2 for to ride for approximately 1 minute. The Moroccans slapped the camels to get them to stand up and sit down and also had a small step ladder so the tourists could get on and off. Once on the camel you are brought for a quick journey around in a small circle and then you could get your photo taken. I thought this seemed quite cruel, as the camels were literally just in a car park and probably do this all day, everyday! Despite this I still paid €2 and got up on a camel (what a contradicting dick).
After the stop off with the camels, the group was dropped off in the Old town for a quick walk and then lunch. This is where the madness begins. When walking through Tangier Old town, the local traders are literally on top of you trying to sell you their merchandise. They don't give up and will follow you the entire time. Rings, bracelets, watches, belts, handbags, bowls, cups, hats, t-shirts, camel shaped wood carvings, you name it, they have it! We escaped the mob briefly when entering the restaurant for lunch.
Upon entering the restaurant there were a group of musicians playing some traditional Moroccan style music, this was really cool, it really added to the atmosphere and I loved it! Everyone sits together, Dad and I were sitting beside an English couple, they were alright but the conversation felt forced. For starter we were given a soup and some bread, the soup tasted like spaghetti hoops. Next we got 2 lamb skewers each followed by couscous with chicken, this was mediocre. Finally we got some sort of Moroccan mint tea and pastry. All together the meal was average at best but I was hungry so ate every single bite of it.
After the lunch Dad and I went outside where a mob of street traders were waiting for us. I actually wanted to buy one of the traditional white robes the Moroccan men wear (I forget the name so please comment if you know it). I saw a man with one (or rather he saw me, as he and about 10 others were straight over) and he said €35, I began bargaining with him and I ended up getting 2 of them for €20. To be honest I could have done better but I actually didn't mind too much as I really liked this guy, he was a good laugh and a nice guy and at the end of the day they are all desperate to earn a living. While this was going on the other traders were simultaneously trying to sell me other things and my Dad was also getting bombarded. After a short while the rest of the group were ready and we were escorted to a carpet shop. While on the way we were being followed and bombarded by the street traders, their persistence is incredible and it works! Dad ended up buying a fake Tag Heuer watch for €5 and the buying wouldn't stop there.
On the way into the carpet shop Dad and I were getting praise for our outfits, the Moroccans thought we were a good laugh "Ayyyyyy, Ali Baba" they all kept saying. In the carpet shop everyone is seated around in a circle and given a presentation and sales pitch by one of the owners. To be fair, they make it interesting and the carpets are very nice. Dad and I tried to escape afterwards but one of the salesmen pulled me aside and said 'maybe you get a carpet for your bedroom hah?' - all they want to do is sell sell sell and their tactics are brilliant. Outside we had to wait a few minutes and had more traders on our backs, Dad was coerced into buying a belt.
Natrual Remedies Chemist
Next we were brought into a chemist shop for natural remedies and given another presentation and tried a few of these remedies. The names escape me but one of them was a black powder you roll up in paper and sniff up your nose, it was kind of like a vicks inhaler that you would use if you had a blocked nose. We decided not to buy anything in here although some of it could have been useful.
Free time and flying my drone
Finally we had some free time and were to meet back at the bus, Dad and I walked down in the direction of the bus and on the way he ended up buying a Moroccan bowl and teapot (the teapot was a throw in lol). He also almost bought a pair of shoes, the man selling them sprinted off to get his size but Dad didn't go for them in the end. There was a young kid that kept on pestering me to buy a little wooden camel off him or to give him €1 so he could "get a drink of coke". I felt for him so I bought a little camel and he was delighted. I had my DJI Mavic Pro with me so I wanted to get some aerial shots of Tangier. The laws for flying drones in Morocco involve contacting the aviation authority in advance so I was a little nervous about flying considering I hadn't done this. I risked it anyway and got some nice footage, when I was landing it the young boy who sold me the camel had come back and when he saw it he was in awe "woooah! batman, batman, batman!" he said as I was landing it. I packed it up and we went to the bus, the young boy said his goodbye and gave me a high five.
Back to the Marbella
When back on the bus the traders began surrounding it for one last ditch attempt to sell all of the tourists more items. Dad wanted another belt so started negotiating via hand signals through the window. He handed me €4 and told me to get a belt so I went to the front of the bus and handed the man €4 and he handed me the belt. Then he started shouting "no, no it's €5!" so I handed the belt back to him and took back the money. Like a shot, he was back at the window negotiating with Dad again and this time he agreed €4 so again I went to the front of the bus and slapped the money into his hand and got the belt. The bus left and we returned to the boat where we chilled inside and fell asleep, we were wrecked! The bus from Tariffa to Marbella was tiring, it took about 2 hours and we were home by 20:30.
Tangier is a diverse city where the divide between the rich and the poor is evident. The street traders are like none I've ever seen before, being almost literally on top of you trying to sell you their merchandise is a necessary way of life for them. They will do anything to survive. These guys know how to sell and even if you're not interested in their merchandise they will make you interested! This is an incredible skill that the traders possess. The entire day tour could be considered a tourist trap, but this is expected when travelling to somewhere like Morocco. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and will be back if I get the opportunity.