While the darkness slowly covered Barcelona, I got on my coach and left. The following morning I woke up in Malaga where another bus was waiting for me to get me to Tarifa.
Clung to the southernmost tip of Spain, Tarifa is the gate towards Morocco. Differently from Algeciras – the other port town for Africa – Tarifa isn’t just a grey and anonymous harbour, but enriches its landscapes with saharian suggestions, its historic centre is a a nest of charming tapas bars and the beaches are crowded by surfers trying to best the imperious waves.
In its name, Tarifa carries a past of fights and battles, but also of encounters and cultural syncretism which made her into an embrace among arabic and wester world. Tarif ibn Malik was the Berber warrior who led the Arab conquest in 710, while also the rest of Spain was bowing in front of the Arab advance.
After becoming part of the Kingdom of Granada, Tarifa has been taken over by Castile. The town repelled further muslim attacks and kept being part of Spain and Europe’s history. But the seed was planted: on its sand, on the buildings’ white walls and on the fortifications encircling the harbour the Arabic touch is still to be felt, while in the Andalusian kitchens smells and flavours celebrate an encounter of distant traditions.
Tomorrow I will be in Morocco, but this evening I am pleased to gaze at it from my terrace, its coastline standing against the sea, so close I almost feel I could swim to it.