topics: tagine (food), mint tea, Maison de Jeune of Tangier, clothing, Phoenicians, money; jump to dispatch

BikeAbout Log


Rider Notes: September 26–27, 1997

Breakfast: We had the basic small breakfast that Europeans call a continental breakfast. This consists of a croissant or danish and a hot cup of coffee or tea.

Lunch: The sandwiches we ate consisted of broiled chicken crammed into a half baguette and then stuffed full of vegetables and french fries. Yes, they actually put french fries IN the sandwich!

Dinner: Some of us enjoyed one of the traditional dishes of Morocco called a tagine. The version Ethan enjoyed was made with lamb and prunes. The sauce was sweet and meaty . . . and delicious. Combined with a mixed salad, it was the perfect dinner after a long day.

Food of the Day: Mint tea

Every café in Tangier offers, among other drinks, a mint tea. Unlike the American mint tea, this is a sweet tea with a thick bunch of mint mixed into the glass. Really. It looks like a bunch of seaweed, but it's the mint leaves that infuse the water with a yummy minty taste. It's delicious. We just can't get enough . . . three or four glasses a day!

Place of the Day: Maison de Jeune of Tangier

Located in an unassuming one-story building and just off a busy traffic circle at the top of the Avenue Belgique sits Tangier's Maison de Jeune. The French name can be translated literally as "House of Youth," but the concept corresponds to that of an American youth center.

And like so many youth centers throughout the world, the Maison de Jeune does too much with too little. No more than a single hallway and eight rooms (but also with 21 computers, none of which are atteched to the Internet . . . yet), the Maison de Jeune is the center of activity for 122 Tangier-based groups and associations, covering activities as diverse as chess and sports, bringing together people of all ages who share interests like film, radio, the computer, and the environment, and providing support to individuals who share life experiences like physical handicaps.

Founded in 1955, but at its present location since 1979, the Maison de Jeune is the only one of its kind in Tangier and is attached to the city's Delegation of Youth and Sport. Since most schools in Tangier do not provide after-school activities to students (other than some sports events), the Maison de Jeune plays an extremely important role in Tangier, offering qualified support and a strong sense of community to students and youth, many of whom have no other after-school alternatives.

Youths in Tangier suffer from poverty and other social problems; the administrators of the Maison de Jeune work hard to keep as many kids off the street as possible. The Maison de Jeune, together with the dynamic team that keeps its many disparate elements going, deserves the respect it garners, especially as a place where groups can meet and share.

Person of the Day: Hassan Hajoub

Mr. Hassan Hajoub, Director of the Maison de Jeune of Tangier, was the first person to welcome BikeAbout to Tangier. With overwhelming warmth and an infectious hospitality, the dynamic Mr. Hajoub shared volumes of information with the BikeAbout team.

Over cups of coffee and mint tea (green tea filled with those delicious mint leaves — see our Food of the Day), Mr. Hajoub spoke with great passion and knowledge about the Maison de Jeune, life in Tangier, and Moroccan culture and history, among other things. He knew so much that we even affectionately nicknamed him Mr. Encyclopedia.

On Friday morning when Ethan and andrEa met with him and then at an evening meeting in the Maison de Jeune, Mr. Hajoub went out of his way to make BikeAbout feel welcome and to help us meet our objectives. We would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his energy and enthusiasm and salute him for the vigor with which he pursues the goals of the Maison de Jeune of Tangier.

The Ride to Tangier

[Webmaster's note: Anthony, Padraic, and Corinne spent the full day and night of the 25th in Ceuta and made the journey to Tangier on the 26th, while, after their morning in Ceuta, andrEa and Ethan made their trip the night of the 25th. These are the reports of their separate journeys.]

Ethan and andrEa's ride

picture of Ethanpicture of andrEa
September 25. After a busy and frustrating morning and afternoon in Ceuta (taking a long time to write dispatches click to view a photograph, attempting unsuccessfully to send them, and trying unsuccessfully to shop for food — the shops had closed), Ethan and andrEa grooved next to the Mediterranean Sea, in their saddles, following signs to the Moroccan border. Big stone towers obviously marked the borderline between the Spanish enclave and Morocco. It seems that everyone in the border area speaks a hundred languages, and it is as if we've gone back in time. Just a stamp into each passport and some dirhams click to view a photograph to be changed were all the formalities that were required, but it still took one hour to get on the road again. You learn about patience upon arrival in Africa.

So, we had to ask ourselves the big question: Could we make it to Tangier before sunset? We knew neither the exact distance nor the hilliness of the road ahead. But why think about that when you can enjoy everything from a bike? And we were aware of the obvious enjoyable differences: the brightest North African light, the midday heat, the smell of mint-herbs, and the curiosity in the faces of the people we passed.

Biking to Tangier was up, and up, and up; we hoped the others wouldn't take the same route as they had the extra weight of the two B.O.B.s to pull. The road conditions were excellent, but strong sidewinds, villagers comments ("Oh a chicka on bike"), and blue Mercedes-taxis honking (and twice nearly running us down!) made it more challenging.

Sunset brought the loveliest rose-light with fragile cloud paintings over the sea's horizon. But the night brought a tandem bike: andrEa (in front) had only a white handlebar light and Ethan a red flashing light in back, so we had to stay close together. It was very scary, complete with wild dogs barking in the darkness. We finally made it past a sign ~TANGIER~ click to view a photograph at 9 p.m., having covered 61 km (38 miles) in seven hours.

Anthony, Padraic and Corinne's ride

picture of Anthonypicture of Padraicpicture of Corinne
September 26. After a comfortable afternoon and evening in Ceuta, we reached the border at 9 a.m. — 7 a.m. in Morocco (see the Tech Fact of the Day from October 4) — and immediately noticed the differences between Spain and Morocco: The Moroccan men wore djellabas (their traditional dress), there were only a few women around, and the landscape turned more desertlike, complete with cacti and camels!

Our meeting with Ethan and andrEa was set for 2 p.m., which gave us seven hours to make the 40 mi / 65 km to Tangier, the important international port city founded by those famous ancient sea-traders, the Phoenicians (see more in the dispatch from February 4). However, an early-rising local told us of a "flat" road, which would spare us a hilly ride along the coast, but at the cost of an additional 22 mi / 35 km. So, instead of riding directly to Tangier to the west, we biked south towards Tetouan click to view a photograph and then back to the northwest, missing the hills, but running into one fairly steep mountain!! Well, at least the way DOWN was fun.

As Corinne's introduction to bike touring, and with the guys pulling full trailers, it turned out to be a very tough first ride. Even with the extra weight, Anthony and Padraic waited click to view a photograph at the top of the hills for Corinne to arrive . . . pushing her bike. Soon she'll be waiting for them!

With a tailwind pushing us into town, meeting up with Ethan in Tangier was a cinch — and we were only one hour late! To everyone's surprise, with the aid of naps and showers, we could even attend that afternoon's meeting at the Maison de Jeunes (see our Place of the Day). Of course none of us had any problem sleeping that night.

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