Getting to Tangier, Morocco


Seen on the hillside from the ferry as we get close to Tangier

It took twelve hours but I’m in Tangier, Morocco in Africa, near the Straight of Gibraltar.

Friend Tom of Australia, sent me an email about his previous day getting here so I was for-warned and even given  some instruction. His journey took four hours.

I left the Albergue Interloven Hostel, by taxi at 9 a.m. for the 11 o’clock ferry from Algeciras.

My ticket originally was for the 8 a.m. ferry, but I thought the 11 a.m. ferry sounded better since it rained all night and was foggy in the morning.

So when I got there I went right up to the information window and asked what I was supposed to do first to catch the 11 a.m. ferry. She said, “there is no 11 o’clock ferry.”

“What? Here are my papers. I was told last night that I could catch the 11 o’clock and not the 8 o’clock and here is the name of the man who told me that.”(A woman at the hostel made the call).

She looked at the paper and gave me the first dreadful news, “the 11 o’clock ferry has been cancelled. Now you have to take the 2 o’clock.”

“Two o’clock? What will I do here for five and one half hours?”

“You can go up there to the cafeteria.” She pointed to the escalator.

“I have all this stuff. Is there a lift somewhere?”

“Over there.” She yawned.

“By the way, do you have wifi here?” (It’s pronounced we fee.)

“Yes, upstairs.”

I trudged to the lift – the elevator in American terms – and arrived upstairs to a cafeteria and adjoining another large room that was vacant.

I got cafe con leche in a glass on top of a saucer. These saucers do not have the usual indentations that saucers in the rest of the world have, so the small glass slides around.

So, there began, what I thought would be a five and one half hour wait. But there were more set backs and I’ll get to that later.

First, I decided to look up the address of the hotel in Tangier so I could be prepared when I got there to give to the taxi driver. The little red notebook wasn’t anywhere to be found. I had looked at it in the taxi to make certain I had the words written down in Arabic; those words that would help me say ‘no thank you’ and ‘leave me alone’, if needed.

I can only think that I must have left that little red notebook in the taxi.

I have several red notebooks and two of those were with me, except the one I needed. So, now I needed ‘we fee’ so I could get the address of the Tangier Hotel off of my email address, but no one could help me find the password to the system.

Now it was getting close to 1 p.m., and I needed that address before I left. Don’t know why, when during transitions, I make so many bad judgement calls, feel disorganized and worried I’ll forget something, lose something, or do something unintentionally illegal for a tourist. And it’s a self-fulfilled prophecy every time.

“Do you know the password for wifi,” I asked several people whenever I saw someone walk nearby.

“No was the usual answer.” I went back downstairs and asked again. The unconcerned woman at the information desk said you had to pay for it and to do that you have to go upstairs in the waiting room.

So back upstairs I went with my things and looked around for a place to pay. There was a strange looking wooden box that said wifi on it, with a slot for money.It didn’t say how much to put into it, so I put two coins and they came back. Tried again; they came back again.

Now I was starting to panic; I pulled most everything out of the carry-on bag, including underwear, medicine, papers, you name it…but not the right red notebook. Then I saw a man who looked like a professor sitting with his computer and I asked him if he knew the password. He only spoke French and handed me a bottle of water.

“No thank you. I need the password for my computer.” I did manage to understand that he was working on something but not on-line.

Then there was a Moroccan lady sitting nearby waiting for her husband and I asked her if she knew the password for wifi, and she didn’t understand me, but somehow I communicated to her that I had to find the name of the hotel in Tangier before I left on the ferry.

“Wait. My husband will be back.”

He did come back and spoke a little bit of Spanish and he understood my dilemma, and said, “let’s go, I’ll help you.”

We went back to the box and he figured that was useless, so downstairs he asked inside two shops and neither one spoke English to understand what I needed. Finally we went to another ferry ticket window and he asked the Moroccan lady if she could speak English to help me.

She could, and got my email address up and found the email about the hotel, and I wrote it down, thanked her and the gentleman for saving my day.

Ready to board:

I juggled around to be first in queue at the check-in station, so not to have to stand long. But I got tired of waiting, and noticed that others were getting tired, as well, so we all sat down on benches until a man opened up the window and we all got in line again.

He looked at passports; which became the first of many times throughout the day that passports had to be shown. Then he stamped the ticket and handed out two boarding passes. By then it was after 2 p.m., and no ferry had arrived.

However, a group of us became a little village. There was a lovely Moroccan mother who lives in London with her two sons. One of her sons, a delightful little boy with the most fetching smile, was in a stroller because he had mobility issues, his mother said. The other boy, age eleven, was almost as tall as his mother and was polite and sweet to his mother and brother.

Then there were two young couples from the U.K., and another from Denmark, and a movie-star looking Frenchman, the French-professor-looking guy, and myself.

The mother began talking to some other Moroccan women about the delay and they didn’t seem to know anything about it. So we all just stood around in the queue talking and wondering why someone didn’t tell us what was going on.

It became 2:30 and still no ferry had been docked. Around 3 p.m. the Moroccan women and the mother of the two sons spoke and while they did, other people began to leave. I learned that those who left were going to leave on another ferry from a different company. And the mother with the sons followed suit. Soon, however, they all came back because the company wouldn’t give their money back.

Somehow, someone heard the ferry was ready and we would leave at 4 p.m. But it didn’t. We waited.

Finally at 5 p.m., at the usual next scheduled time, we boarded the boat along with the 5 p.m. scheduled passengers.

The boat left at 5:30 p.m. Our little village stayed close together, and helped each other. Someone was always there to help me with my luggage, and someone helped the little boy in the stroller up and down stairs.

When we arrived at the Tangier port, people with cars were first off the boat, then our little village was next.  We made mistake going down the wrong staircase and all of us had to go back up and, you guessed it:  wait.

Finally, someone from the ferry company opened a door for us and pointed to metal stairs that, I believe, could have easily been called a ladder.

Then, there was the bus to get on, which was free and took us to the terminal, where, once again, for the fourth time, we showed our passports. We waited on the bus for one last passenger who had a huge trunk and was trying to move it herself. The French professor helped her drag it on the bus, after someone from the ferry company offered her a cart.

At the terminal, there was a choice to make; take a taxi to the city or a bus. I opted to follow the young folks and go by bus. We all gave our farewell to the lovely mother and her two sons, and the rest of us waited in pouring rain for the bus.

Before the bus, I got a little bit of dirham (Moroccan money) so I could pay the bus and the taxi later.

I got on the bus, and the driver smiled at me and handed a ticket which I put in my pocket with the change he handed back, and I sat up front with my bag on top of my lap which was soaking wet, and had my computer in it.

A man got on the bus and asked everyone for their ticket. I searched my pockets, my billfold, my purse, my brain and I couldn’t find it. Meanwhile there was an argument between the man and a passenger, which ended when the passenger paid the bus driver. I was next. The bus driver saved me; told the man he remembered me.

While we drove to Tangier about 55 kilometers away, the driver laughed and talked to two men who sat on the steps near the driver, and I observed him texting, as well.

We got to Tangier, and I got a taxi to the hotel. I woke up this morning and went downstairs for breakfast and find there is a two hour time difference.  It was 6 a.m. and I have heard the morning amplified call for Islam prayers.

Now it is 8 a.m. and I’m heading for breakfast. After? Hmmm, don’t know yet.


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