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Saturday, June 24, 2006

A Tangled Tale of Tangiers (précis) or “He Escaped with a Kaftan and His Life!”

by Roderick Eime (from an eight-week, school sponsored tour of Europe in 1977-78)

As naïve 16 year olds on a merry train jaunt, we knew little of the turmoil the rampaging Baader-Meinhof Gang and Red Army Factions were wreaking on Europe in late 1977 – that was until one of our little group was baled up and interrogated at length. Apparently his German name, long hair and Australian passport were a suspicious mix. We heard later that one of the fleeing Bader Meinhof terrorists had been arrested with a fake or stolen Australian passport.

With a rattled Paul returned to us we continued our Eurail journey through France and Spain, spurning hotels and hygiene until we reached the southern Spanish port of Algeciras where we were to make our brave foray to Tangiers the following day.

We expected some shenanigans, but couldn’t foresee having to walk in a tight circle around Marilyn to thwart the many lustful lunges at her from gangs of wharf urchins.

Normally outspoken and sassy, Marilyn was reduced to a quivering wreck by her tormentors, one of whom relished the great discomfort he caused staring her out with his grotesquely vacant eye socket. “Chicky! chicky!” they taunted, grabbing for her golden curls or tight jeans. Marilyn recoiled in utter horror, wincing, twitching, screaming, and unwittingly fuelling their violations.

We’d also evaded, we thought, an obvious charlatan who clearly prayed on vulnerable types like us arriving goggle-eyed off the ferry. Draped in a full-length kaftan, Mohammed Schmarmi tried his darnedest to hook us up with one of his little tykes who, we were sure, was determined to shangai us and hold us captive until we paid his uncle triple price for some crappy trinket we didn’t want.

Extricated from the mayhem of the port we found the relative calm of the “old city” and immediately got totally lost in the narrow, labyrinthine alleyways. Seeing our distress, a benevolent local walked us back to the port and into the hands of the “traders”.

Clutching our booty of camel wool kaftans and sundry loot, we scampered smugly back to the port (late) to find the ticket booths closed. Mhd Smarmy was waiting, rubbing his grubby hands together, knowing that the only way we could get back to Spain was to pay “his price” for a ticket. Faced with the unsavoury prospect of spending the night in Tangiers, we unloaded all our remaining cash for what was effectively a ransom payment. As we trudged to the waiting ferry we caught sight of him once more , high-fiving his ticket cronies and celebrating one more “victory” over the infidel invaders.

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