Beginning a life in Tangier

As I begin my fourth day here in Tangier, I am feeling excited and nervous. I toured my first apartments yesterday, and I’ve quickly gained respect for the stress that searching for a new home brings. Tangier has many housing options available, but you cannot Google all of the options, as one would do in the USA. Instead, you have to find places by ear. The first place I toured was shown to me by the cousin of a new aquaintence’s landlord. The second place, shown to me by my friend’s friend’s friend. It seems like using AirBnB, and even Facebook Marketplace does not produce legit options.

Another way that the apartment search differs from that in the US is that there is a lot of room to bargain. I’ve quickly learned that if I say I want to spend $500 a month maximum, I won’t be shown any apartments under that amount. Instead, I need to say $350 is my maximum, and allow “wiggle room.” 

Thus far, Tangier has been quite dreamy. I am staying with a Fulbrighter currently in Old Medina, and it feels like living in a children’s book. The apartment is beautiful, 3 stories with an atrium and “classic” Moroccan lamps. It has a lovely terrace, an unideal proximity to loud streets, but a perfect location regarding shopping, restaurants, and the beach. When you leave her home, you are transported decades back. The walls are painted white, door frames have pops of color, and nearby roads are lined with stores that look like a scene from Aladdin.

I am beginning to adapt to the “Tangier lifestyle.” I am working to ignore the stares that being an American brings, I’m adjusting to the different concept of time people have, and I’m learning to make plans last minute. I got my first manicure, which took 3 hours instead of 45 minutes, shopped at a local market, and have been walking at least 10,000 steps a day. Eating out takes at least 2.5 hours, I recognize fellow “expats” I’ve met online, and I’m working to feel more relaxed and more accustomed to having a flexible schedule.

I’m beginning to notice that there are lots of “quirky Tangier experiences” I will have. To name a few….

  1. I went to an “Expat Dinner” I saw online. It was hosted in a restaurant called “Casa de España,” where we were given free sushi, and the music was DJ’d by a famous figure named “Ashraf,” known for connecting expats and helping people find apartments.
  2. I began a conversation with a local Moroccan, and now when he finds me in the street, he decides to walk with me wherever I’m going. I need to learn to be more firm.
  3. Getting lost in the medina is inevitable, and a bit scary. The buildings are so tall and the streets so narrow that it is difficult to see a landmark for navigation. The stores begin to run together and a wrong turn could find you at a dead end in a residential area.
  4. People don’t respond to emails. You have to find them or text them multiple times. In the US this is considered rude. 
  5. I went to tour a property with a landlord. He didn’t have the proper keys, so we walked around the medina for 45 minutes until someone who had them came, speaking only in Spanish and Arabic. It was pretty remarkable how generous people are with their time. 

I’m enjoying the change of pace and culture. The next step is to find a place to live, a gym, and language classes. I’m hoping to find a French tutor and take Darija classes at the Cervantes Institute. Time moves quickly and slowly here, but hopefully with more self-imposed structure, it will feel more like home.

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