It’s been a happy surprise to find so much Spanish in Tangier. I can speak to any shop owner, taxi driver, or waiter in Spanish, and they respond back with superior fluency. This is due to the close proximity of Spain to Tangier, only being a short ferry ride away.
During my first whole day in Tangier, I wandered around the ancient Medina, chatted with a store owner about migration problems in Morocco for an hour, and visited the famous Grottes d’Hercule in Cap Spartel.
Translating to the Caves of Hercules, according to mythology, Hercules stayed in this cave for a night before performing his 11th labour, to get golden apples from the Hesperides Garden.
I also visited the point in Morocco where the Mediterranean and Atlantic Oceans meet. It was interesting to see the different colored waters and different tides from the two oceans mixing with each other.
Though this day mostly consisted of me gawking at the ocean, I also recognized and learned more things about Moroccan culture.
Since I’m a solo-female traveler, throughout this experience I’ve been on hyper-alert constantly. If someone approaches me, I walk away quickly. If someone smiles at me, I assume there’s a sinister reason why. However, in my chat with a store owner, he explained to me that Moroccan culture is friendly and peaceful, and compared it to European society.
He said that in Morocco, if you meet someone and really like them, you invite them to your home for a meal (in Europe/America, this would be a “stranger danger” situation). To contrast, he said that in European societies, if you meet someone and like them, you invite them out to a cafe or restaurant, but never initially to your home. I thought this cultural insight was interesting because it presented the possibility that I had been misinterpreting the attention I was getting from locals due to the “Westernized perspective” with which I was raised. Maybe in actuality it was genuine kindness and interest I was being met with.
My next time walking around, when someone chided “Bella” at me, or said “Hola chica bienvenidos,” I responded with “gracias” or a smile of acknowledgement to replace my usual icy glare. Instead of continuing the conversation and potentially getting harassed, the locals who interacted with me just seemed genuinely content that I had responded. This has lead me to the actualization that maybe I’ve been being a bit paranoid, and that I need to open myself up to conversations with strangers a bit more. Granted, pick pockets and scam artists still exist, but I am going to try a more trusting approach for the remainder of my time in Tangier.