Giray and I had been obsessing over Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, so naturally, we had made plans to visit and eat at all his favorite spots in Tangier (a short 3 hr drive from Chefchaouen). Anthony had mentioned time and time again how Tangier was his favorite city in the world and with Spain being a quick ferry ride away, we were super excited to explore. We arrived to Tangier hungrier than ever before. I think this was mainly because we were anticipating all the delicious food we would be trying, haha. Already having a list of places we wanted to try, we quickly put the top one on our list into google maps and headed that way. It took us a bit to find the first "hidden gem" on our list and when we finally did, it was closed. This place was, according to Anthony Bourdain, where they served the BEST grilled fish. BUMMER!
We thought, perhaps they would open in the evening for dinner, so we left and moved on to the next place on our list. CLOSED! Yes, this one was closed too. There was a man sitting on a stool nearby that told us the family that owned the restaurant closed it down for the entire month of Ramadan. Noooo! So, we left with empty stomachs in search of food else where.
As we were driving down the main boulevard, looking for what "looked" like a good place to eat, we realized about 95% of the restaurants were closed. Ramadan. We drove around for a good 20 minutes, not even looking for a place that looked good anymore, just one that was open and would feed 2 hungry travelers. No luck. We continued to drive, getting more frustrated by the minute, until we came across those infamous golden arches...McDonalds. It was open and PACKED! THANK YOU McDONALDS!
Giray and I don't usually eat fast food as we try our best to eat healthy but we really had no choice this time. I couldn't believe we had driven all the way to Tangier to eat McDonalds, lol. I'm not sure how this important religious holiday escaped our minds. Perhaps that's why our tickets were so affordable, lol. We were there during the last week of Ramadan! One more week and we would've been eating like kings, hahaha. Oh well. We had our Big Macs and fries and took off to explore the city.
Tangier has a very different vibe from any other city i've visited. It's beautiful and more modern than I imagined but there's something else to it that is really hard to explain. As we walked through the maze of streets and alley ways, I saw and experienced things I had never really been exposed to. I guess the one thing that really struck me the most was seeing children huffing paint thinner and asking if I wanted to buy drugs or just feed them. It was heartbreaking and scary.
We had been walking around the bazaar for a few hours and hadn't realized the sun had set. We were hungry (again) after all that walking so we sat down at a small spot, which surprisingly was open, to have a quick meal. We knew we weren't in a very safe part of the city so we quickly ordered our food and ate as fast as we could. While we were having dinner a small child approached our table asking for food. I told him to sit and eat what I ordered. He ate so fast and kept looking at me with his big brown eyes, smiling. Suddenly, an older kid came up behind him and snatched some bread from the kid's plate. We could smell the paint thinner on him. He was asking the child to share his plate with him. The child pushed him off and the waiter shooed the older kid away.
The older kid stood a few feet away from our table looking at me signaling that the little kid huffed paint too. I felt like the worst person in the world. I felt like that kid thought I was judging him for what he did, that I didn't think he "deserved" a meal and that deep down he knew he wasn't the only "bad" one. I can't think of the right words to describe how and what I felt. I wanted to do something more for these kids, offer them more than just a piece of bread, more than just a meal to help them get by and I couldn't. I felt helpless, sad, angry at the world and myself for being upset that I couldn't eat the "world's best fish" when there's kids who are struggling to have a crumb thrown at them. It was a very emotional experience and I couldn't help but cry and be angry about it.
We drove back to our hotel as the streets didn't feel safe to walk at night, showered and fell asleep thinking about those kids. We awoke the next morning without the excitement we had arrived with. We thought maybe it was best we jumped on a ferry and visited Spain, so we headed to the docks. We arrived and were told that Turkish citizens needed a visa that required a scheduled interview in order to enter Spain. Booooo!
As we had already checked out of our hotel and the majority of businesses were closed we thought it best to head back to Marrakech, so we did. Below are a few photos from our time in Tangier. Also, sorry for the long post, I usually like to keep things short and sweet but I really wanted to share this experience with everyone.
Here we are taking a short break munching on fruits we bought from the bazaar.