Friday, August 29, 2014

Dr. Plotnick's Moroccan Cat Adventure - Day 10 – Our Last Day in Morocco

Day 10 –  Our Last Day in Morocco (Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7 Day 8-1 Day 8-2 Day 9)

Hard to believe, but our last day in Morocco is upon us.  Today’s agenda is to explore as much of Tangier in one day as we can, and then head back home to our own cats, who we miss a lot. 

We started the day at the Gran Café de Paris.  With its tufted brown leather seats impeccable service, and walls covered with fading photos, you feel like you’re back in the ‘50s here.

This is a famous café.  Burroughs wrote here, and parts of The Bourne Ultimatum were filmed here.  The outdoor seats are a popular gathering spot to watch the paseo (the evening stroll that everyone takes) on the boulevard.  We sat outside and had a nice breakfast.

Across the street, just outside the French embassy, two kittens were playing non-stop, and they provided a good half hour of breakfast entertainment.

We headed toward the Grand Socco, then turned left and visited St. Andrew’s Church. 

It’s a bit of an odd site in Morocco, as it fuses Moorish decoration, an English country churchyard, and a Scottish flag, which features the cross of St. Andrew. The church has a peaceful graveyard made colorful by the purple flowers that have fallen from the trees.

The tombstones were interesting and the landscaping was very nice.

  I spotted a friendly tomcat in the churchyard and I gave him some dry food that I was carrying with me.

  The church was closed, but I saw a sign instructing us how to visit the church.  

 I found Yassine, and he gave us a tour. The church itself was pretty non-descript, but cute.

Since we were close by the Cinema Rif, we decided to pop in.  Yesterday we photographed the outside.  The theater is from 1938, and it was recently renovated.  Inside there are old Spanish film fliers and old faded photos that harken back to another era in Tangier. 

Time to go into the medina.  We went through the main gate, and I immediately saw this handsome cat, situated almost right on the edge of the sun’s shadow.  Made for a nice photo.

In the medina, we headed up the main street, the Rue es Siaghin, known as “The Silversmith’s Street”, although most of the silversmiths have been replaced by souvenir shops.  The Rue es Siaghin connects the Grand Socco with the Petit Socco.  Halfway along the street, we passed the Church of the Immaculate Conception, which was built in 1880 by a Franciscan missionary.

It is the only church in Morocco found in the walls of a medina.  The church no longer holds services.  Now it is occupied by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. 

A few more meters down the street and you’re at the Petit Socco.  It’s also known as the Zoco Chico (Little Market), and this is how Paul Bowles refers to it in his novel Let it Come Down.  As you can see in the picture, it’s kinda small; you wouldn’t think it could ever serve as an actual market.

But up until the t19th century, the square was almost twice its present size.   Only at the beginning of the 20th century were the hotels and cafés built up.  You’d never guess, hanging out here, that this was the true heart of Tangier, and a broad mix of people – Christians, Jews, Muslims, Moroccans, Europeans, and Americans – would gather here daily.  Seating in the Petit Socco is divided among three main cafes – Tingis, Central, and Fuentes.  I suppose the Grand Central Café is the main anchor.

It was in the alleys behind the Socco that the straight and gay brothels were concentrated.  William S. Burroughs used to hang out around the square in the heyday of the “International City, when Arab and Spanish sexuality was an easily exploited attraction. “I get averages of ten very attractive propositions a day”, he wrote to Allen Ginsberg. 

Continuing past the Petit Socco, you come upon the Grand Mosque, with its striking green and white tile minaret.

It was built in 1685.  As usual, entry is forbidden to non-Muslims.  Just past the mosque is a viewing platform that overlooks the port. 

 On the platform, I saw a cute tabby sleeping in the shade.

We went back to the Petit Socco and followed the signs toward the Kasbah.

Finding your way to the Kasbah is fairly easy.  If you’re going uphill you’re heading the right way.

If you go downhill, turn around; you’re going the wrong way.

As we meandered uphill, we stumbled upon Rue Sidi Hosni.  This street is named after the mini palace called Sidi Hosni.  The eccentric Woolworths heiress, Barbara Hutton, moved to this place in 1947, reputedly outbidding General Franco for it.  They say her parties here were legendary.  Here I am outside the place.

Here you can glimpse the grounds.  The guy in the white hat is a guard.

Also on Rue Sidi Hosni is the famous Café Baba. 

It was founded in 1943, and was popular with hippies and rock-n-rollers in the ‘70s.  Apparently a lot of pot and hashish smoking went on in here.  Nowadays, it’s pretty rundown inside but the posters on the wall tell of their glory days.

Here’s a picture of Keith Richards,

Jim Jarmusch,

Barbara Hutton,

assorted royalty,

and Kofi Annan.

Also a nice view of the rooftop of Barbara Hutton’s place, where the decadent parties often spilled out.

The Kasbah is walled off from the Medina, and has been the city’s palace and administrative quarter since Roman times. We got to the Bab El Aassa, which is the main gate from the medina to the Kasbah. 

Just inside the gate is the Seqaya Bab el Assa, one of the largest and most beautiful fountains of the Medina, featuring exquisite zellij tiles and an ornamental wooden roof.  Here’s Mark, sitting at it. 

We then walked into the Kasbah square, which is often the site of snake tamers and other performers, as they try to snag money from tourists coming by ferry from Spain, which is only 20 miles away.  Today there were no performers.  At the end of the square is Bab el-Bhat,

 a literal hole in the wall that offers a great view of the Atlantic and Spain.  

Just a few feet away from Bab el-Bhat was a little outcropping of rock, and on it were a bunch of kittens. 

Someone had left them some food and a container of milk.

They were not a healthy bunch, though.  Here you can see the serious conjunctivitis this kitten has.

Here I am, just after putting an antibiotic eye drop in her eye.  You can see she’s not liking it.

We decided to go to the Kasbah Museum.

This used to be the Kasbah’s palace. The sultan’s (Moulay Ismail) former apartments now house an interesting Moroccan art museum, with mosaic floors, carpets, furniture, jewelry, ceramics, and the like.

The marble columns in this courtyard were taken from Volubilis.

In the back was a cute garden with a lovely shaded veranda.

After the museum, we casually strolled back.  It was easy to get back:  if you are climbing higher, you’re going the wrong way.  Up is the Kasbah.  Down is the rest of the city.  The winding streets of the city can be confusing, with a lot of dead end alleys.  This actually made the afternoon kinda fun.  The streets did have a Mediterranean feel; specifically, it reminded me of Greece, with the white walls and blue trim. 

I passed two cats taking an afternoon snooze.

 and this cool painting of a kitty on the wall.

Unfortunately, a local saw us wandering around the dead end streets and cul-de-sacs, and asked where we were going,  and kinda glommed onto us and wouldn’t leave even after we said we didn’t need any help.  We finally kept ignoring him and he eventually left.  Grrrr. 

We figured it was our last day, so we should do any last minute souvenir shopping now.   We passed by a shop that was loaded with stuff.  Crammed full of every souvenir imaginable

We ended up buying a couple of lanterns. 

We headed back to the hotel. The stroll back involved taking one slightly confusing turn up a street.  To avoid making a wrong turn, I needed a landmark.  Well, I found an unforgettable one:  this photo studio with a portrait of a fat baby in the window.

It was very helpful.  I knew that when I saw this child photo of Chris Christie, we needed to turn right.

I can’t remember where we ate dinner, oddly enough.  But after dinner, I wanted to check out The Tanger Inn.

It was an opportunity for some literary nostalgia.  This dark bar has a rich history, hosting the likes of William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Paul Bowles, Jean Genet, Tennessee Williams and Federico Garcia Lorca.  Burroughs wrote much of Naked Lunch in this very bar.  There’s a piano in the corner
 and some non-descript leather seats.

But there are photos on the wall that give a hint of past visitors, like this one of a bunch of beat writers (that’s Burroughs on the left and Ginsberg in the white pants),

 and this portrait of Burroughs.

The place was empty when I was there.  Not sure if I was there too early, or if this is just the way Tangier is.  Either way, I was glad to at least set foot inside the place where some of my favorite writers did their best work.  

And that’s our Morocco trip.  Ten days flew right by, and we barely scratched the surface.  I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the trip as much as I did, but really, it was one of the best trips we’ve ever taken.  I definitely will come back. I need to see Rabat and Casablanca.  I want to explore Morocco’s four mountain ranges, and I want to ride a camel through the Sahara desert.  One of the best things, for me, was the many wonderful cats that I saw, and the numerous acts of kindness bestowed upon them by the people of Morocco.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the stories and the photos.
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