Faced with another day of rain in Tangier, we decided to head over to Tetouan. James had been reluctant to wrestle our way through city traffic, and in fact we got lost and found ourselves accidentally driving through the high-rent neighborhoods of Tangier, which was interesting in and of itself.
The city seemed small but purposeful, thriving in many ways.
As we entered the medina, a man named Abdelmalik struck up a conversation with James. He was a teacher, he said, and wanted to practice his English. In exchange for the opportunity to speak English, he’d be glad to show us around the medina. James hesitated, then said yes, much to Zoë’s dismay. She has a much more finely tuned sense of a scam than her father does.
But Abdelmalik did indeed show us many highlights of the Tetouan medina, albeit at a faster pace than we might have set for ourselves.
I wonder why Moroccans always assume foreigners will want to visit the Jewish cemetery? It’s picturesque, but we never know quite what to do there.
Abdelmalik led us up through a carpet shop to look at the view over the rooftop. We only had to spend 15 minutes looking at carpets in exchange, and we warned young Youssef that we wouldn’t buy anything. He didn’t seem too upset about this.
Down the stairs into the medina again, and Abdelmalik suddenly turned a corner to present us with Tetouan’s small tannery. This was James and the children’s first experience of a tannery and it seemed a smaller, gentler place than the Chouwara tannery in Fez.
As we wandered through the medina, Abdelmalik had begun saying things like, “Allah will repay me for my time,” and mentioning the desirability of a glass of tea. We decided we needed to feed the children, so we left the medina, leaving Abdelmalik with a little money for tea. Finding a place with vegetarian food to eat was a bit of a challenge: Zoë was tired and nauseous. We ended up walking quite a distance and then eating bad pizza, much to Jeremy’s delight. He spent half the lunch time wandering down to the kitchen area and chatting and smiling at people. Some Brits sat at the table behind us: they had retired to the shore near Tetouan some six years ago, and were very happy living in Morocco, despite the fact that they had little language for navigating the country. I find this baffling.
I was struck by how different these mosaics were to zellij–human versus geometric forms, carefully cut geometric shapes versus a broader range of building blocks–despite the fact that they share so many principles.
We were all amazed by the cave drawing by the front door. It doesn’t belong here. But this was the first museum in Morocco, and so when a Spanish general went driving around the south, in French Morocco, and he saw this carving, he picked it up and brought it back to Tetouan, presumably for the greater glory of Spain.