Tangier Night 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 is as 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. Now I am out of the ferry, walking on the shores of the great Africa for the first time. The world is upside down: from here my Home Land is the other side…
I know nothing about Morocco. 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 the Tangier Night.
I sit in bar to think clearly but it doesn’t work: Africa put a spell on me. I became 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 are 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 few 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, lights as a progression of the darkness, lights as lovers of the darkness: they touch each other, they 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 get 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 blends 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,is as charmer as a flute. His face is like is speech: restless eyes underline feelings and moods, an ever-changing expression gives him a face of a thousand faces. I introduce myself. He answers with a smile and gives me no name. “Désolé” He says, laughing again for quite a long while. I laugh with him.
We end up walking together. I let him lead the way. He is like a magician. His words are the spell, as soon as he speaks, the Tangier blossom in the night 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. 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 it is time to say farewell, my first Tangier Night, my first Africa Night is over. I recognize a street, we are not that far from the Hotel. I am tired and he looks waiting the right moment to leave. I stop and I tell him 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 am angry but I keep talking relaxed, telling him that a business has to be agreed at the beginning, otherwise is called fraud. He turns angry, then quite aggressive. My bad attitude grows. We end up insulting each other in our respective languages. The tension is about to turns into a fight but, no, even that as no substance, one more illusions or seduction of a Tangier Night.
I come back to the hotel. 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.
Tangier Night Photogallery