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24.03.09 — Madrid to Algeciras, ferry to Tangier, train to Marrakech.

I started the day with a nervous mixture of anticipation and trepidation. We were about to undertake a relatively large and complicated journey — starting the day at 8:00am at Madrid Atoche Renfe station and finishing 24 hours later in Marrakech. Leaving Madrid was easy — the first class tickets to Algeciras were fantastic, giving us a lovely air-conditioned carriage to ourselves and a pretty decent breakfast. I managed to catch a little sleep and also re-read Arkham Asylum which I’d accidentally packed for the trip. The Spanish port of Algeciras was a friendly little place, not nearly as bad as I’d been led to believe. It did have that “edge of the world” feel to it, probably a good precursor to Tangier’s other “edge of the world” feel.


The ferry to Tangier was a little bit of Interzone on the high seas — a converted former cross-channel ferry with a mosque replacing the cinema, a very quiet duty-free shop, an almost food-free cafeteria (still with the original English signage) and a cast of passengers and crew straight out of the Twilight Zone. We sat on the very top deck outside and watched our slow progress through the Straits of Gibraltar, reflecting sadly on the incredible levels of air pollution in the channel. We finally arrived two and half hours later and after a comical docking and beautifully simple customs (we set off all the alarms but nobody seemed to care), we headed out into Tangier.


Memories flooded back as I peered through the darkness to the Medina beyond. I felt surprisingly happy and calm to back in the insanity of Tangier — as though my demons of recent have been somewhat purged. My earlier trepidation turned to elation as I sipped my first thé de menthe in twelve years. I’d forgotten how amazingly refreshing I used to find them and all of a sudden I was peacefully and happily returned to my time in the Tangier Medina. I’m laying on my couchette on the overnight train to Marrakech, watching the Moroccan countryside and the lights of distant towns drift by in the darkness. It certainly feels good to be back.