It's been a while since I was in Africa. Being near Tarifa in Southern Spain at Christmas meant that we couldn't have had a better opportunity to slip across the Straits and visit Tangiers.
The ferry crossing was rough- about force 5 I would say. The immense catamaran slapped heavily into the ravaged waves, driving many passengers into close encounters with the sick bag. We were shaken, but on this occasion, not stirred, and slightly uneasily, left the restaurant deck to the cleaners and wobbled out into the scorching sun.
To be in Morocco is to immerse yourself in what seems at first like an unreal place. Within moments, it seemed as if the natural reserve between strangers had disappeared. At the slightest flicker of a map from a pocket, someone was there, wanting to help.
Sitting in the shade of a street cafe, we were exhausted. We'd raced off to try and see everything in this amazing, arresting place. Drinking in the wild infusion of stabbingly-bright green mint tea, the rainbow displays of wizards striding by in swathes of decadent winter djellabas made it feel like a wonderful hallucination.
Something else slowly started to sink in, though, by the end of the day. Although it seemed as if this was as unreal and fairytale a place as you could find, it was quite the opposite. This was the real world, a kind of reality that we in Britain, and perhaps, Europe, have lost touch with. Intangible though it was, the full gamut of life was here as it had been for thousands of years and even in this immense city, everyone was connected to each other. With our unreal existence in the here and now in our technologically proficient but shallow world, it struck me that we may have by-passed something very special.
Maybe there was something in the mint tea, but maybe life in Tangiers is a window on a forgotten world. Reality check, indeed.