Tangier – The Hometown and Final Resting Place of Ibn Battutah

I landed in Tangier on the 1st of May and after dropping my backpack at the hostel, I went about to find the tomb of Ibn Battutah.

The Mazaar (Masoleum) of  Ibn Battutah

The Mazaar (Masoleum) of Ibn Battutah

Of all the travellers I met during my travels in Morocco only two had heard the name Ibn Battutah, and neither of them knew who he was! It was a sad fact especially since each traveller I met knew very well who Marco Polo was.

Even more disappointingly neither of the three guys who worked at the hostel I stayed at in Tangier (Ibn Battutah’s hometown) knew the way to Ibn Battutah’s tomb, arguably the most important site in all of Tangier, even though it was hardly a 3-5 mins walk from the hostel..

Armed with a very primtive vocabulary of Arabic I set out to locate the tomb by asking around. Barely a few steps from the hostel door I ran into a bunch of young guys trying to sell me Hashish (after a few days in Tangier, I realised selling hashish was no big deal, in fact smoking it was very common and even socially acceptable in the cafes). Hamza who was standing with the group said he knew a good local eating place as well as the location of the tomb and said he could show me both, not realizing that everything in Morocco comes at a cost especially over eager locals and touts giving you directions.

Inside the Mazaar, the tomb and final resting place of  Ibn Battutah

Inside the Mazaar, the tomb and final resting place of Ibn Battutah

Inevitably after a very long stroll circumambulating around the medina we reached the tomb. All the while I stayed inside the small approximately 8 * 12 feet mazaar (mausoleum) Hamza waited outside, even though I had thanked and bid farewell to him. Eventually he walked with me back to the hostel and I realised why we took the longest possible route to Ibn Battutahs tomb when he asked me for massive tip for showing me ‘such a difficult to find way’ and for hanging around all that time (uninvited)

After getting ripped off on the first day of my journey, I worked out a successful tout avoiding strategy for the rest of my trip – only ask the shop keepers for directions if you get lost in the winding, never ending streets of the medinas, they will guide but won’t leave their stalls to come along and show you the way .


Tangier – A Graveyard With A View

On the way to Cafe Hafa, famous for its views across the Strait of Gibraltar, Moncef and I walked past a graveyard. He remembered that his grandfather was burried there so we decided to make a quick stop to offer a prayer by his grave.

The last time Moncef had visited his grandfathers grave was as a small child. All he remembered was that he was buried somewhere in the old graveyard, obscured from view, located at the  back of the new graveyard and accessible only by a small dirt footpath that connected the two.

As we reached the tiny gate at the end of the footpath which led to the old graveyard I peered through entrance. Standing in the doorway one couldn’t help but admire the amazing view! The graveyard was located right at the edge of a precipice overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar – A sea of the dead overlooking an ocean full of life!

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Mocef told me that his father had already purchased a small tract for himself in this graveyard so he could be buried close to his father and to admire the amazing view. There was no more space to burry anyone there, barring those who already had procured land for allocation of their grave.

Moncef, didn’t quite agree with his father’s idea of buying a grave with a nice view. After all once in the soil you wouldn’t really be able to admire the beautiful  view !?

Perhaps the beautiful view serves as an added incentive for one’s near and dear to visit the graveyard more often and make a prayer for the departed..

Mount Toubkal (4167m) – The Highest Mountain in North Africa

For 550 Dhs (roughly £40) per person the 2 nights 2 day trek (including breakfast, dinner and guide fees) to summit mount Toubkal sounded too good to be true. Asking around from other agents who could organise the same trek, the lowest quote in the market I found was 800 Dhs per person for a minimum of two ppl. Nevertheless, getting multiple assurance from Ibrahim (agent 1) I felt I had struck the perfect deal. Having booked an excursion to Ozoud waterfalls with him already, on which I was to depart a day before my trek to Mount Toubkal, I felt no reason to suspect him – not realizing that he could be quoting a ridiculously low quote just so that I paid the full price for the ride to the waterfalls. Feeling content with my bargaining skills I left his office to give the good news to three others who were interested to summit the highest mountain in North Africa..

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All packed and ready for the road journey to Imlil from where we were to start our trek the next morning I decided to pay one final visit to Ibrahim (agent1) to confirm the time we should be meeting the guide who was coming over from Imlil to Marrakech to pick us up that night.

On seeing me the agent non challantly remarked that the guide was watching a football match and that we wont be departing tonight!!  For a second I thought he was joking, searching his face carefully for a subtle grin, I saw none. I was furious, two other people who were to join us had moved there bookings around completely on my suggestion so we could all go together and bring the cost of hiring the guide and the trip down. On top of that Ibrahim said we could still go tomorrow, however the price for the trip had gone up as well. Angry, frustrated and feeling swindled by this con artist of an agent I decided not to fall for his nonsense anymore and pay a visit to Abdessamad (agent 2), who had offered us 800 Dhs for the same trip two days earlier. Fortunately he still stuck to his quote and called the guide right away to confirm that we could still depart for Imlil the next morning. Having been conned once by an agent, I made sure he wrote everything down on a paper and signed his name on it and gave us a receipt.

The next morning the guide was there to pick us up; however he took us to the agent 1’s office who had swindled us the night before…

Turns out there were two Canadians who had booked the same trek with agent1 a day after we had confirmed our trip, but had settled on a higher price 1100 Dhs per person (with an additional night stay) instead of 550 Dhs p/p that we had agreed with the same agent! That explained it all. Agent1, thinking that the two Canadians would never pay the same money if they found out that four other ppl going on the same trek through the same agent had paid half the price they were paying, cancelled our trip (coming up with a cock and bull excuse that the guide was busy watching a football game!!!).

Idmansour, the guide, however was working for both agent1 and agent2 and took us to agent 1’s office to collect the two Canadians who were to join us for the trek.

A brief summary of the trek to the summit of Mount Toubkal, which thankfully was uneventful and without any hiccups.

Day 1: Drive from Marrakech to Imlil 1.5 hrs. Trek from Imlil to Toubkal Nature Refuge 5-6 hrs. Ascent 1467m.

Day 2: Early morning start at 6am to summit mount Toubkal. 3 hrs to the summit. 2 hrs to trek down from the summit back to the Toubkal nature refuge. Ascent and Descent 960m. After lunch we set out again to trek back to Imlil (3-4hrs). From Imlil we took a public bus back to Marrakech that took us 2.5 hrs.

Cost: 800 Dhs per person. One night two days trek.  Includes lunch dinner breakfast,  night stay and guide fees. Does not include drinks.

Guide: Muhammad Idmansour. Can be contacted directly to organize the trek. +212 671735905

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