HODP in Tangier

At the time I was writing Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, that is, between the spring of 2002 and the winter of 2004, I had not visited Tangier in more than fifteen years. I had spent several summers in the city as a child and teenager, and, perhaps presumptuously, I felt I still knew the place well enough to be able to describe it in a decent way. I wrote about streets and buildings and cafés, but I was working essentially from memory.

While in Tangier this past weekend, I decided to visit some of the places I wrote about in the book. I walked through the Gran Socco and the Socco Chico, and it was interesting to see how much they had changed (many of the historic buildings have been renovated), and also how little (there are still plenty of tourist guides, kif smokers, and vendors in sombreros.) The talk of the town was the city’s candidacy to host the 2012 World’s Fair. The train station has been moved to a new location, and the port now includes a free trade zone. Tangier felt like a city in motion, just as I remembered it.

In “Better Luck Tomorrow,” my character Murad spends time in a Café la Liberté, which was a fictional place, but as I was walking down one of the streets that led to the socco, I discovered there really was a Café La Liberté. I sat down for a cup of coffee there, and there really was a football match playing on the screen, and deals being made at the tables.

In the story, Murad meets some tourists who are curious to find the famous Café Central, so of course I went there as well. It has been nicely renovated, and the outside tables were packed. I took a photo of the Pension Fuentes that sits across the lane. I walked into one of the antique shops where the action in “The Storyteller” takes place. I felt like I had stepped, once again since writing it, into my own book.