Tangiers was a place I had always craved to visit with a longing intense and a curiosity piqued by spice and vice. Books filled my head, imagery laced with dust and forbidden lusts, with intoxicating day dreams. It promised danger, louche and real. It was an oddity too, not quite Africa, not yet Europe. And a few years ago I had the chance to visit, a dream come real. We left Gibraltar before dawn, in darkness, sleepy still, and walked across an international frontier in order to catch a taxi. We drank milky coffee and ate delicious toasted cheese sandwiches in the bar of a massive port, a place of comings and goings, transitory, and vibrant. A rusty and large ferry carried us across the Straights, and so we landed in Africa. Tangiers was getting close. At first it seemed an outpost, a French city, a bit tatty, flavours of 1960s architecture and retro cinema posters. A small gateway, oriental in shape plunged us into the souk, redolent of coriander, turmeric, African spices and musky perfumes, the sweet smells of flat breads fresh from wood ovens. Sounds mingled, Arab music, Arab voices and Maghreben, the accents of the Atlas Mountains and the Berbers. The piercing cry of an Azan, then another, and another until the very sky reverberated and my soul tingled. We drank mint tea on the terrace of a once fashionable hotel and looked at the cobalt blue sea.
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