Culture

Tangier: An Eclectic Cultural Milieu

By Kaatyaayani Pandey

Rabat - Education is a fascinating thing. The fact that a small aspect of my education would have such an influential spark in my life is what makes it so fascinating.

Since I was young, I have studied about Ibn Battuta and his travels. I had always heard stories of the great voyager from Tangier who served as a resident in the court of Muhammad Bin Tughlaq – the great ruler of the Slave Dynasty in Delhi. It was primarily curiosity surrounding this enigmatic figure which brought me trundling to Morocco.

How did this man muster up the courage to travel across North Africa and the Asian landmass to the far beyond in an age where people thought the world itself was flat? I was waiting with baited breath for the weekend my friends and I would visit the city which inspired his treks, so when the opportune day finally arrived I was, needless to say, excited!

My first impression of Tangier was that it was an eclectic blend of different cultures. Unlike the rest of Morocco, where aspects of French culture linger over the native cultures as remnants of the former colonizing force, in Tangier I was exposed to European culture in an entirely different light.

Due to Tangier’s geographic proximity to Spain and the historical and political relationship between the two, Spanish culture has found a way to seep into the local culture of the city without erasure of Moroccan culture. From the food to the language, Tangier sits at the northern tip of the continent as a true gateway between Europe and Africa.

Two of the best sights to see in Tangier are the Kasbah and the Cave of Hercules. The Kasbah, which means fortress, is exactly that, a fortress of times past with a culture which speaks of the global world. Situated on the coast, the Kasbah is at the edge of the Old Medina of Tangier, near the port. It is a beautiful area to stroll around and has very quaint local cafés to dine in.

The local people are helpful and kind and are always willing to give directions and assist you if you look lost. From strategic vantage points on clear days, one can even see Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar from the walls. The Cave of Hercules is a cave to the west of Tangier overlooking the sea. According to Greek legend, the hero Hercules rested before he embarked on his eleventh of twelve labours. It has a unique shape reminiscent of Africa and another popular legend says that this shape was carved by Phoenicians to mimic the outline of the continent.

Everything about this city invigorated me. From the fact that everyone spoke to me in Spanish to the beautiful town houses - the pervasion of the vibrant and romantic Spanish culture was ever apparent. The weather was sunny and beautiful all through the weekend which allowed me to enjoy seasonal fruit while relaxing on the beach as my friends rode camels along the shore.

This setting was revitalizing, but my favourite moment was being able to witness the meeting point of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Something about that experience was empowering, as though the small and sheltered Mediterranean Sea holding its own against the current of the mighty Atlantic made me feel as if I can do anything. I finally understand Ibn Battuta’s motivation.

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