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Giddy from the rush provided by crossing the Strait of Gibraltar from the European continent to Africa, first-time visitors may find the Tangier port such a rude awakening that they fail to see the beauty of the place. Mobs of faux guides and bona fide hustlers greet the arriving ferries hungry for greenhorns to fleece in any way they can. Once you hit your stride and start going places
with confidence, Tangier has a charm that this raucous undercurrent only enhances: crumbling kasbah walls, intimate corners in the serpentine medina, piles of bougainvillea, French balconies, Spanish cafés, and other remnants of times gone by.
Grab a seat at a sidewalk café and you'll begin to see how dramatically the urban brouhaha is set against the backdrop of the turquoise Mediterranean. Tangier is a melting pot—a place where it's not uncommon to see sophisticated Moroccans sharing sidewalks with rural Rifi Berbers wrapped in traditional striped mehndis (brightly striped blankets women wear tied around their waists) and eccentric expatriates, as well as the new generation of fashion-conscious teenagers. This is also Hercules' city, and recently rudimentary graffiti tags in the empty lots have sported this name; musclemen advertise fitness clubs and burgeoning gymnasts and acrobats, many of whom then join the world's foremost circuses and shows, can be spotted practicing on the beaches and in the parks.