Ten Things to Know When Taking the Ferry to Tangier
Tangier, Morocco is exotic and mysterious. Its strategic location on the Strait of Gibraltar has ensured every nation, race or power has had a hand in casting its unique character. Renowned author William Burroughs once noted that Tangier is mostly “smugglers, money launderers, currency speculators, gunrunners, prostitutes, and pimps”. I could hardly wait to get there. However, Tangier is unlike any other city in Morocco, and arriving from Spain into the ferry port is an experience to be…well…experienced. Here are a few tongue-in-cheek tips on what to expect on your trip from Algeciras to Tangier.
1. The ferry you’re traveling on may be an older boat and a little weather worn. For your safety, develop an emergency exit strategy and explore possible escape routes. Rather than panicking, carefully inspect the lifeboats located outside on the upper decks. Now you can panic.
2. The journey from Spain to Tangier actually takes only a couple of hours. That time can best be spent awkwardly sprawled in the once luxurious chairs in the forward lounge. The furniture has obviously seen better days. You will probably ask yourself, “Who installed these chairs? Vandals?”
3. The ferry will have a cafeteria. Some of the food may actually look exotic and appetizing. However, like the desert you may be visiting in Morocco, this is only a mirage. If you must eat here, I’d recommend the pancakes. Not because they are edible. But, in the event the abandon ship alarm is activated, slipping these rubbery disks under your armpits should keep you afloat until help arrives.
4. You must go into the duty free shop while on board. Here is one of the few places on earth where you get to pay full price for knock off cigarettes. The “Camel” cigarettes, although not really made by Phillip Morris, are indeed true to their name.
5. The restrooms on the ferry are filthy, vile, and disgusting. You will want to puke after using them. They will also be the best ones you will encounter on this trip, so enjoy.
6. When arriving in Tangier, there will be an announcement made over the public address system. It will ask you to gather your belongings and calmly move to the exit ramp. This will be done with all the smooth grace and efficiency of a English soccer riot.
7. Lines getting off the boat can be chaotic and time consuming. The line to disembark will seem as long as the Great Wall of China. The major difference, however, is that the Great Wall will actually move faster.
8. The Immigration Service can be secretive, inept and mean spirited. Some of their actions seem inappropriate, unethical, or even illegal. You may find yourself wondering how it was possible for Moroccan Immigration to hire such key staff away from the Enron Accounting Department.
9. When leaving the ferry port, you will encounter a number of “official” guides trying to sell you on their respective hotels, taxis or restaurants. These guides are aggressive, relentless and ruthless. They have no pity or humility. They will stop at nothing and will not take no for an answer. Clearly, they learned these techniques by selling time-share condos in Florida.
10. You will also find that every person you encounter is gaming for your wallet. Everyone. Shoeshine boys, guides, government officials, shop keepers, and even frail little old ladies. Their sole purpose in life is to get all of the money in your wallet. Down to your last dime. It is a lot like Disneyland without the rides.