There it was, the continent of Africa. I could just make out the land mass across thirty some miles of the Strait of Gibraltar. The mountains seemed to vibrate in the haze. Tomorrow I would go there...Morocco and Tangier.
The ferry left Gibraltar in the late afternoon after first picking up passengers in Algeciras Spain. The crossing would take a couple of hours. There were many Muslim men on this ferry. I recognized several of them from the courthouse in Gibraltar. There was some sort of political demonstration. I had seen them standing outside and sitting on the steps with handwritten signs during our days of exploring the city. This was Friday and I supposed they were returning home for the weekend after an arduous week of demonstrating how to stand and how to sit on steps.
My husband and I sat in our seats with cups of hot coffee. From the corners of our eyes, we watched the unusual behavior of these men. We whispered to each other behind our hands wondering why they all seemed to be counting money, over and over again.
As the trip wore on, many took pint bottles of alcohol from their pockets or out of voluminous plastic bags resting on their feet. They would carefully open the bottles and pour tiny servings into the caps then quickly upend the liquid into their mouths. I did not know that the Muslim faith prohibits alcohol. When the sun began to set, the men put their heads on the seats in front of them, closed their eyes and quietly chanted prayers.
With perfect timing, and prayers completed, the ferry docked shortly after sunset. The sky was still light. The ferry master collected our passports prior to docking and I felt fear rise in my throat. Why had they taken our passports? We were given a small slip of paper to fill out which was also collected. As the ferry was tied to the dock, great masses of people pressed toward the exits.
Where had they all come from? Why did they all have those huge plastic bags? These bags were white with multicolored stripes and thin, plaited black handles. Some people had four and five of them jammed full and overflowing with clothing and small appliances. There was one man with a bathtub...a white porcelain bathtub, filled with these huge plastic bags.
My husband and I pulled ourselves out of the crowd. The doors exiting the ferry had opened and the people surged out. There were two simple gangplanks with rope side rails to accommodate this teeming mass of humanity.
We could not go anywhere, not without our passports. My passport fear faded into the background as I watched the exodus, fascinated by the pushing and shoving. It was quickly mounting to a panic. The man with the bathtub lost the tub and it contents as he tried to slide it down the narrow gangplank. Some of the ferry crew poked at the floating bags with hooks mounted on long poles. I got the impression these tools had been made for precisely this job...fishing handled bags out of the drink.
The ferry master appeared waving our passports under our noses. Now we could get off. We quickly left the ferry and its remaining hordes behind. I was never so anxious to get off a boat in my life. Did the other passengers feel that way too? Was that why they all tried to get off at once? Regardless, I was now in Tangier, Morocco, Africa.