Taking the Long Way
Tangier was not my first choice for my next destination after Chefchaouen. I wanted to go to Al Hociema on the Med coast, or Larache, on the Atlantic coast, or really just anywhere on the coast! But from Chaouen, there weren’t really any buses going straight where I wanted to go, and I was anxious about losing too much time taking bus after bus, so I caved and just got a ticket back to Tetouan, figuring I’d make it from there to Tangier somehow, too. And then maybe I’d cross back over to Spain a day early and stop in Ronda on my way home.
It was raining when I left Chaouen, and on the ride to Tetouan, I watched the skies. It cleared up as we drove, and a few blue patches emerged.
So I gambled.
The bus stopped not at the main bus station in Tetouan, but somewhere random in town, so I was confused, but because I had just been in Tetouan a few days before, I knew where the station was, so I walked. It wasn’t far. Tetouan was looking pretty dramataic:
Walking up through the taxi station, most drivers left me alone until I stopped to talk to one particularly friendly looking guy about where I wanted to go. Seconds after we started talking, four or five other drivers had crowded around us.
In Spanish sentences that I had practiced on the bus, I tried to explain to this spontaneously gathered group that was growing by the second that I wanted to go to Tangier, but not direct. I wanted to take the long way. I wanted to go by the coast, by the sea. To enjoy the views, to take photographs.
At first I though they understood me, but then I was brought over to another pair of drivers who again asked me where I wanted to go. I tried to explain again, and this time drew a map to accompany my words. With no fewer than ten men watching me, I drew northern Morocco, with a straight line between Tetouan and Tangier crossed out, and a new line drawn around the northeastern coast line — the long way.
Eventually, I was understood, and summarily herded into the passenger seat of a classic blue grand taxi — always a Mercedes — and my driver and I were off.
My driver’s name was Muhammad, but as he explained, there were too many Muhammads already, so he went by another, different name that I can neither pronounce correctly or write, so I will call him Mo.
Mo spoke Arabic and some Spanish. His Spanish was better than mine, and we managed to communicate in this language — but just barely. There was a lot of “No me entiendes…?” (mostly said by him), and lots of frustration on my part for not being able to accurately express what I wanted to.
But we did our best.
Mo understood that I wanted to take the long way so I could see the coast, take in some views, and generally just absorb a bit of the northern Moroccan landscape. He was awesome about taking the right roads, always asking me if I wanted to stop for a photo, and waiting really patiently for me while I ran off with my camera. Here’s what my view looked like for about three and a half hours, from the front of Mo’s blue taxi:
We drove along the coast, stopping occasionally so I could take photos like these:
At one point, we saw a camel. I taught Mo the English word “camel,” and he laughed for about five minutes about it. It must mean something else in Arabic — something hilarious.
Overall, Mo was a great sport. I had him pose with his taxi at one particularly dramatic overlook:
We we drove, the skies turned a bit threatening again, and eventually it started raining. And then it got dark, and Mo and I were both pretty quiet the rest of the way to Tangier.