"" Writer's Wanderings: Tangiers, Morocco - The Cave of Hercules

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tangiers, Morocco - The Cave of Hercules

Tangiers. It sounded mysterious and romantic. And it would afford us the opportunity to set foot on the only continent left we had not ventured onto in our travels. Days before we were to dock in the Moroccan city, we began seeing and hearing little disclaimers about the excursions that were offered there. It was obvious that the cruise company was trying to limit expectations. “Tangiers has a still-emerging tourist industry,” we were told.

As we ate breakfast, our ship approached the harbor of the city. You could see a sprawling metropolis. A tall minaret stood in the center of the two and three story buildings that fanned out over the rolling hills for miles in the distance, a reminder that we were definitely in a Muslim country.

On the dock, the buses were lined up and tour guides, most in robes but many in shirts and pants and/or suits. As we exited our ship, we were handed an immigration ticket with no instructions as to what we were to do with it. Each ticket had obviously been recycled several times. We tucked it away with our cruise cards and figured if we needed it, someone would ask.

For the first part of our tour, we drove through the city trying to understand our guide who spoke English quite well but spoke way too fast to be able to catch all that he said. I had the feeling he would make a good used camel salesman. We drove to the beautiful beach area where there were very nice resorts and lovely beaches most of which did not look very busy. Hassan kept telling us that no one goes to the beach before 11 a.m.

Our first stop was at a historic lighthouse that happened to be in an area where there were lots of street merchants set up just in case we wanted to do a little shopping. The view was lovely and these merchants were not terribly aggressive. We moved on.

There is an old legend that says that Hercules separated the African continent from the European continent and the mystery was revealed in the Cave of Hercules that was our next stop on the tour. On our way from the bus to the cave entrance, a little boy scurried by with his small donkey. Actually the donkey scurried by with the little boy trying to keep him in line. Hassan explained that he wanted money for a picture—a universal enterprise we have run into in other countries.

The cave was massive. Obviously “Hercules” must have been very busy carving it out. You could see where his tools had left grooves in the stone walls. We were quickly led from place to place and shown formations in the rocks and holes that mysteriously resembled the continents when viewed from the right perspective. Again, there were “cave” merchants who had set up shop in niches along the cave entrance and exit.

On our way out, I could not resist the boy and his donkey. Bob gave him a Euro and he flashed a big grin for me—followed by a big yawn. He must have been up early so he could catch the tourist trade.

At the request of a few camel enthusiast, our bus driver back tracked to a man with a pack of camels we had passed when the usual camels hadn’t shown up at the cave as Hassan had promised. Others were out riding most of the camels when we arrived but this little guy was left standing there looking happy that no one was on his back.

Once everyone had their camel pictures, it was back on the bus and off to the Kasba. Come with me tomorrow to the Kasba.

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