PLEASE PUSH F11. We ventured down the coast to the southernmost tip of Europe, Tarifa, Spain. This was the point where the Moors invaded Spain in 711 AD. Sparse pieces of fortifications still remain.
Primarily this is a launching point for ferries which cross the Straits of Gibraltar and land in Tangier, Morocco about 7 miles to the south.
Staring across at Muslim northern Africa, Jesus protects the entrance to Christian Europe...
...assisted by huge windmill farms and a few birds. Ecologists don't like these windmills on one of the key flightpaths for migrating flocks who winter in Africa. Virtually devoid of hydrocarbon resources, Spain is 2nd in Europe in the creation of electricity from wind and serves about 5% of its needs through windmills such as these. Sounds like a good idea -- but the government subsidizes them so their kilowatt hours are cost competitive with hydrocarbon-based electricity. Don Quixote would be proud.
About an hour later, we were cruising through Tangier, Morocco. Take a good look at this picture. What do you see?
In fact, we were looking over this fence at a cemetery. Our visit occurred on one of the last days of the month of Ramadan. Muslims honor their dead by visiting their cemeteries.
Our first stop was at the Tangier Kasbah -- a Berber fort similar to the alcazabas found in Moorish Spain. Here is the central courtyard which once housed Morocco's Sultan.
Here's the land entrance through the traditional horseshoe gate...
...into this smaller courtyard. Tangier's Kasbah has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site -- and consequently is getting spiffed up with resulting rising property values. Whitewash is pretty much the color scheme.
Here's the opposite end of the same courtyard. The same gate has lost its horseshoe shape on the interior side.
This is now pretty much a residential area with streets too narrow for cars and a plethora of wires.
Water here is potable and free -- the same water people pay for if it is piped into their homes; they may also run a hose to fill roof-top cisterns and then use that water in their house for free.
Here's the neighborhood oven used for baking. People bring prepared dishes here during dinner cooking times; since this was Ramadan, the oven was idle; firewood is on top. We saw one in action later in the tour as sundown approached and dinner preparations started.
This mosque has an octagonal minaret but most Berber mosque minarets are square shaped.
The mosque door is pretty much what you'd expect with horseshoe shaped entrance with tiled decorations
Some political dissent is allowed in Morocco under the new regime. Political Parties can post signs -- but only in their assigned spaces as marked on this wall.
These gentlemen rest, awaiting the arrival of a tour...
...then they swing (ala Benny Goodman) into action trying...
...to wake up the snakes in the boxes at their feet.
Of course, a cobra makes an appearance on queue.
First our fearful tour leader, Antonio Matas, demonstrated proper snake necklace procedure, followed by several tour members.
The Kasbah has a sea-side gate as well...
...which shows the Tangier harbor.
This woman escaped from the Sultan's harem and has been running around the Kasbah ever since, trying to have a good hair day like the man at left.
This road parallels the Kasbah's sea wall. Buildings here are a little more upscale, including some snooty hotels. The ugly power lines and those stylish garbage bins are inescapable.
Then it was back to the town of Tangier and to...
...tea at our hotel. The mint is real and placed in the pot to perfume the brew and keep the loose tea leaves from ending up on your tongue. A typical glass contains about 5 teaspoons of sugar.
Shortly thereafter, we were off to the seaside town of Asilah, passing this large soccer stadium -- under construction but with no work apparent.
We spent the sunset hours and evening in Asilah, a town on the Atlantic that traces its roots to the Phoenicians. Its walls are still intact and its whitewash is immaculate.
A long walkway leads past the mosque to the main square of ....
...Abdellah Guennoun, still sporting its defenses and...
...some fuel-efficient hybrid transportation
Here's another view of the square which was coming alive with the town's denizens as shadows lengthened.
As the sun started to set, the townspeople prepared for a Ramadan feast to break their fast. Here two sisters take cookies to the communal bakery where they will be baked with the rest of the town's meal. The older sister was friendly and glad to see us, like most of the children we encountered in Morocco. But the toddler became scared of our tour, bristling with cameras aimed at her. Her older sister tried to comfort her without dropping her load. The birth rate here is much lower than in most Arab countries, but the population is young with about 1/3 under the age of 15.
Here's the communal bakery; make up your cookies and bread and bring them here. Cost to bake is about 10 cents. Do you know what it costs to preheat and run your oven for a 1/2 hour baking of cookies?
If you're lucky, you probably pay 50 cents to one dollar to bake your sheet of cookies. However, the Moroccan ovens typically use wood rather than cleaner burning natural gas. In their defense, the baker had a small motorcycle in his shop and we saw few cars inside the fortified walls.
At the water's edge rises a cemetery; tombs here are under the long ceramic tiles. The dome in the foreground holds the remains of a Muslim holy person. The rest are hoping for a better deal by being close to him. Note the long shadows of the crenelations decorating the whitewashed walls.
Pleasant homes rise above the old city walls that are licked by the Atlantic's high tide.
Some homes break from the tradition of the white walls...
...and many doors add a dash of color like lipstick on a pit bull.
We ended the evening with a home-hosted dinner of a typical Ramadan meal. Once the horn sounded signifying sunset at 6:20 PM, we started with the traditional fast-breaker -- a hearty soup called harira.
The next day we were up to visit the most northwestern shore of Africa -- Cape Spartel. Nearby is the sunken island of Spartel Bank which some reputable scientists feel is the lost Atlantis. It lies about 150 feet below the sea now that the last ice age has passed (at least for a while). Quit burning that wood!
This area has few inhabitants as the Moroccan army has chased them away so that they can not harbor wannabe illegal immigrants using this as jumping off point for Europe. (Apparently all those windmills in Spain are incapable of blowing immigrants back into Africa.) This tent appears to have some tenants...
...as does this shack with its goat and dog.
This rock is about where the Atlantic (at left) turns into the Strait of Gibraltar. Once this was a Gypsy enclave. The cave (see next picture) was where the pastors kept their livestock at night.
A closeup of the cave showing the stockade fence.
Supposedly the military removed the roofs so the residents would move out. The tents may be their response.
Far below, we saw the flock returning across the beach, perhaps to this point...
...from the road where earlier this flock had engulfed our bus.
The goats seemed to be guarding the camp from the pesky tourists above.
Next we drove back into town along the road edged by many communication towers and umbrella pines.
Within a few miles of the Gypsy tents, we passed through a fashionable area where some Saudi money erects lavish mansions. The King's summer home is here as well. Morocco is a constitutional monarchy (but more monarchy than constitutional). It was the first country to recognize the upstart United States in 1977). (Some of us are having trouble recognizing it today.)
Here's a Saudi mansion with its own minaret -- not in the square Berber style but the round columnar shape typical of many Muslim countries.
Next we stopped at the Berber market in Tangier where minarets are square. (How many can you see in this picture?)
The Berbers are the descendants of nomads who preceded the Arabs into Northern Africa. Our local guide and Wikipedia claimed 75% of Morocco's population was Berber, but the number is probably no higher than 1/3. The Muslims who invaded Spain and ran Andalusia until 1492 were primarily Berbers.
Many Berber women will not allow their picture to be taken out of superstition. Here some appear in the traditional Berber hat.
The Berber market teamed with the usual colorful pots, vegetables, and spices. Moroccan cuisine is quite varied, given the bounty of their agriculture.
Chicken is the most popular meat in the Moroccan cuisine.
Mint tea is the national drink and bags of the herb were in plentiful supply.
Typical Berber women in modern dress.
Parsley in typical modern bags.
We found the children of Morocco to be a delight: innocent and friendly -- and numerous. Many were dressed in traditional clothing for the Ramadan day commemorating honoring their ancestors. THE END:
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