A Sip of Tangier
This is a stand-alone sequel to the causerie, Eggs, Red Wine, Surfing and Flirting, which took place in the 60s.
My namesake and backpacker friend, Björn, and I steered west by bus towards Gibraltar and Algeciras after the adventures in Marbella (a translation from Swedish to English of the story “Ägg, rödvin, surfning och flirt” will soon be available).
It was blowing from the sea, and splashes of salt sprayed over the ferry as it docked from the quay in Algeciras.
After a stormy sail, we arrived in Tangier late in the evening. The city greeted us with a scent of marijuana, monotonous Arabic music, and men walking hand-in-hand along the sparsely lit alleys. No women were seen; where were they?
The complaining monotonous songs and prayer euphoria chased us to a small guesthouse that had beautifully mosaic-covered floors and walls. We each rented a room that was in order by Western standards.
Björn and I slept well that night. The next morning, Tangier had changed into a bright and inviting city.
We ate breakfast at Café Central, a locus where Westerners met and tried to come to terms with the incomprehensible Arab world, not least when it came to the crumbs on their signs.
We took a turn among the alleys. It was hot and after a while, I got thirsty and bought a bottle that I thought was mineral water. I took a deep sip and felt how it stuck in my throat and stomach; the bottle contained chlorine.
The salesman grinned and cried simultaneously; he then took hold of his throat and demonstrated for me that I had done something completely weird. Oddly enough, I got no reaction from the drink, not even a nausea.
We went further into the shadows among the alleys to avoid the worst heat.
“Look at him!” Björn exclaimed at an art shop and pointed to a craftsman who was decorating a leather wallet with ornate ornaments that was smoking. He skillfully used a small pencil, which resembled a soldering iron, to carve in the ornaments.
From that shop, I bought a mini bell and a small colorful rug that I rolled up and put under my arm.
Later that week, we were joined by three Gothenburgers whom we met in Marbella. Together, we rented a bungalow in an area a bit above Tangier; it came with a view of the Strait of Gibraltar.
The landlord took interest in my travel typewriter. It was hard to say why, as he would have great difficulty typing on it, even if he knew English, because it had a Swedish keyboard. But I gave it to him, mostly for my own sake, as I was tired of carrying it around.
We lived next door to an American family who had rented a bungalow next to ours. One evening, the lady of the house organized a party with alcohol that was otherwise forbidden in Morocco. It was a festive evening where we and other invited Westerners felt at home.
We spent the next few days admiring the view of the strait and a morning and evening sky that went up and down fast, but which had a magnificent blood red shade.
“Sad not to be able to walk on Avenyn,” Janne, one of the guys from Gothenburg, complained and referred to Avenyn in Gothenburg. We all started to feel homesick, just sitting and looking at the Strait of Gibraltar for days on end. It did not give much, no matter how beautiful it was.
Björn and I soon found ourselves standing at a check-in counter at Tangier Airport, where we had booked two tickets to Copenhagen via Paris. The other Swedes would return to Marbella in a few days.
When I look back on the weeks in Tangier, I mostly remember the monotonous music and the chlorine sip. However, the Arabs did give us our calculation system, so I can oversee with that.
Copyright (C) 2021 Björn Johnsson