Thirteen years ago on the 14th August I visited Morocco for the first time, and fell in love with Tetouan.
From Ceuta we caught a bus to the border of Morocco. Fortunately, our recently acquired Canadian travel-buddy spoke French but he struggled to haggle a cheaper taxi ride to Tetouan. Forty-kilometers later, mostly along the coast, we were dropped off in the middle of Tetouan.
Once we’d found accommodation, we dumped our backpacks and permitted a young man working at the riad to lead us through the nearby ancient medina. Overpowering smells, only a few palatable, caused me to heave and at times I had to pinch my nose. The vibrant spices, the heaps of henna and varieties of olives enticed me to spend money.
Adam’s (aka Omar) family run carpet shop happened to be the next port of call. How did that happen? A good few steps later, we climbed out on to a terrace to admire the magnificent view of the town: thousands of satellite dishes attached to crumbling white buildings, feral cats slinking in alley ways. We were served a glass of melted sugar with mint tea leaves, an instant injection of diabetes, before returning to the carpets below.
Instantly I fell in love with assiduous Tetouan and it’s hospitable people. I didn’t care that their aim was to get us to buy carpets and make money from us. Everything about the place swept me up in its authentic embrace.
Thirteen years later, end of August 2017, I returned to Morocco, fortunate enough to stumble upon Tetouan again. Somehow I fall even more in love with the jewel of a town, at the foot of the Rif Mountains. This time I couldn’t help noticing we were the only foreign visitors, and in the entire twenty-four hours we had to explore, we were left in peace to enjoy its abundent energy. No one approached begging for money. No one disturbed us until we desired to be disturbed.
In the midst of the pungent smelling medina we discovered the oldest bread makers in Tetoaun. The man making the bread welcomed me with my camera. Inside the tiny bakery, his brother asked if we’d seen the best view in town where I could capture stunning photographs. “No, where is it?” “I’ll take you there. Come, follow me!” The spectacular view happened to be on the terrace of a carpet shop. The same carpet shop I happened to have visited thirteen years ago. Unfortuanately, I didn’t spot Adam or perhaps I didn’t recognise him.
In thirteen years absolutely nothing, bar my observations skills and taste in carpets, had changed.