The Last of North Africa
14.02.1965 - 18.02.1965
Early this morning we left Matmora and went down to Tlemcen with our friend Mahomet. We found few cars going towards Morocco and after getting only about half the distance by hitching we took a bus the rest of the way to the border. We then got a bit further, to Oujda, where luck went completely and we are stuck for the night. We decided to get a train to Meknes tomorrow and found the local Youth Hostel.
We spent most of the morning going back and forth from one office to another trying to obtain what was to my mind a non-existent rail concession. I finally clamped down and returned to the Hostel, but Ade was determined and went back again to la Provence for another go. One hour later he appeared at the Hostel without a concession. We got the 1.30 pm train, travelling 4th class, and I felt quite miserable and sick of the whole business. It is hard now to keep up my spirits. Arrived in Meknes at 11.00 pm, and we walked and walked and finally found the Hostel, run by a group of ladies. It was an easy going place and I liked it.
Looked around Meknes, especially the Arab Quarter, or Medina, and found more character than I had seen in a town for quite a while. Narrow alley type of souk and very colourful, though I am really quite past caring now. Still it did arouse some interest in me.
The oranges were wonderful and cheap anyway. I splurged on a local hand woven coverlet and two cushion covers. Quite a pleasant and satisfying day.
Walked out on the road to get a lift to the Roman ruins of Volubolis, but neither of us really cared to see it, so we just decided to by-pass it altogether. No regrets. Finally had a superb and unexpected stroke of luck - a lift which got us up to Tangier by tonight. It was a pleasant drive all the way and we caught sight of the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. We have crossed North Africa. Through sand storms and snow storms, across deserts and mountains, from Cairo to Tangier, we have made it.
Tangier is one city which lives up to its reputation. We barely scratched the surface, but saw plenty, so I can imagine what must lie underneath. It is not unlike Bombay in its human lowlife, and is crawling with drug dens. With two Americans, who had only come across to Tangier for a day or two, we slept in a sleazy and extremely uncomfortable Arab pension in the Medina. I had one of the worst night’s sleep I can remember. On the roof outside our room was a little structure where all types of hashish and cocaine business was going on. People kept noisily walking up and down the stairs all night long, and at 2.00 am someone started screaming. A radio blared Arab music non-stop. The Medina reminded me very much of Jerusalem in its form, but unlike Jerusalem, it does not close down at 7.00 pm, but goes on all night. The shops and the crowded alleys were pleasant enough to get lost in. Tomorrow, Tetouan and Ceuta, Spain.
Waited for yesterday’s lift to pick us up as arranged and take us to Tetouan, but he did not come, so we gave up and went out onto the highway. Shortly after he passed us at speed, but recognized us and pulled over. We were in Tetouan by midday. We then walked out onto the road towards the Spanish territory of Ceuta, or Sebta as the Moroccans call it. Lo and behold we were picked up by the Canadians & Americans we had left back in Djerba. What a coincidence on this last part of North Africa! They were as surprised and delighted as we were. Soon we were at the border and saying goodbye to Morocco and the Arabs, and entering this enclave on the NW tip of Africa. I don’t think I shall be disappointed in the Spanish mainland. We can see the Rock of Gibraltar and Europe across the Straits. It is wonderful to be standing on one continent and able to see another. We get the ferry in the morning, and tomorrow we will really be in Spain. The trip is fast closing. London in ten days if our timing is right.