Tangier bursts of people, a noisy colourful mob, a flooding of faces and voices, a whirl of arms legs bodies cars lights smells. Suddenly the Imam sings from the mosque. Sweet, modal, his voice covers the night with a blanket of calm. It has the effect of a lullaby, a song of distance, a dreaming whisper. So quick it has been. Half an hour ago I was in Tarifa, watching Africa from the shores of Europe and now, out of the ferry, I walk on the shores of the great Africa for the first time, looking at my Home Land from the other side. I know nothing, I planned nothing but to come here. I am sweetly confused, sweetly lost, in the mercy of the journey, of the illusions and seductions of Tangier’s night.
I look for a bar to sit and think clearly but it doesn’t work: Africa put a spell on me, and I become a sleepwalker, a light unreal traveller fallen into the dream of an Arabian Night. I feel as opium is flowing into my veins. The colours, the smells, the mysterious sounds of an unknown language seduce me. The smoke of the cigarette blends with the vapour of the tea and the scent of the mint. I feel a still hidden desire. What I want from Tangier? What I want from Africa?
I leave the bar. I walk slowly, randomly, drinking the atmosphere, choosing direction by instinct. I see few hotels on the way. I need to find one so I enter here and there to bargain on the price, Maroccan looks smarter of me today… I drop off the bag in the room and I am back out to dive in the night of Africa.
It is late. The street of the souk are deserted, just some people drop and flow in the narrow streets as they born directly from the shadows, from that thin soft lights that look are about to fade, lights dancing on the edge of darkness, and that of the darkness are a progression not a rival, or no, light and darkness are lovers, they touch each other, caress each other, lick each other, to create dancing creatures, trembling paintings, a nocturnal ethereal folk of restless shadows.
Everything moves, nothing looks real or sure. There is something in Tangier, as a secret waiting to be unvelied behind every wall, a melody of whispers to decipher. Street lights looks as candles, the night is as dense as liqueir.
Deeply absorbed by the enchantment of an Orient I dreamed for long I got lost, completely lost and it releases me. I close the eyes and I say loudly: Lead the way Tangier, lead the way. I hear somebody laughing behind me. I turn sharply towards the direction of the sound and I see him.
I though first he was drunk, but no, probably his mind turned just a bit out of the normal trail. His way to speak and think has a different North. Follow his speech is hard. English is blended with French and Spanish. Words from Italian, Arabic and German peep out here and there. Strangely everything sounds perfect.
His talking is extremely melodic, the voice softened and louder charmer as a flute. His face is like is speech: restless eyes underlines feelings and moods, an ever-changing expression gives him a face of thousands faces. I introduce myself. He answers with a smile and gives me no name. “Désolé” He says, and start laugh again for quite a long while. I laugh with him.
We end up walking together. I let him leading the way. He is like a magician, his words are the spell, as he speaks the city changes and opens as a flower: his restless eyes reveals details, unveils the meaning of signs, the reason of a colour, who is the man we crossed, the story of an unnoticed building.
He goes on and on, sawing the landscape with the stories of people: sailors and pirates, kings and princess, christians and muslims, migrants, travellers, politics and spies at the time of Tangier international, artists, beggars, saints and assassins. I am sure, Tangier took the shape of a man, a guide to show me its secret. I am walking on streets as pages of a book of tales. Tonight is one of the one and a thousand.
Time passes by and a change in the colour of the sky tell us is time for a farewell. I recognize a street, we are not that far from the Hotel. I am tired and he too looks waiting the right moment to say goodbye. I stop and I tell him that for me it is time to sleep. He smiles. All my dreams crumble. He asks me for money. My answer is a smile: “Forget it brother” I say.
He is seriously disappointed, He worked, He must be paid. I feel myself angry but I keep talking relaxed and I tell him business has to be agreed at the beginning, otherwise is called fraud. He turns angry, then quite aggressive. My bad attitude grows. We ended up shouting each other in our respective languages, but we did not fight.
I come back to the hotel and I throw myself on the bad. Sounds of footsteps, a door opening, flush of water. Somebody in the room behind is already up for a new day. The morning is always a promise, the first sentence of an unfinished tale. Maybe this somebody I know only as sounds coming through the wall is about to have the greatest day of his life. That’s what I told to myslef yestarday morning, you are about to have one of the greatest journey ever.
I stare at the roof, it is flat as flat is now my soul. I wait for tiredness to overcome the body and switch off the mind. I close the eyes. Africa betrayed me.