Traveling around the world is one of my passions, but traveling through time is one of my dreams. I’ve dreamed of walking around Versailles at the time of Louis the XIVth, being in my hometown of Cherbourg on the day the Titanic docked, or seeing a Mayan city before its pyramids crumbled. But the closest I’ve ever come to my dream might have been here in Morocco. About halfway up the climb to the Kasbah, in a tiny corner stuck between the old, crumbly stones of Tangier’s citadel and the dusty steps that led up to it, time stopped.
Seeing the kasbah from a distance was intriguing. Growing up in Europe, I’ve seen a lot of ancient cities in ruins — but this one was different. The wall surrounding the kasbah, stretching from one side of the port to the other, seemed so old and yet so alive.
Making my way up the steps that led to the gate of the Kasbah, I left the present behind and rewound time. “Beslama” to the chaos of the twenty-first century, with its loud cars, buses, and ugly cruise ships. I mounted the stone steps to the Hotel Continental surrounded by all the buzzing cafés, along the medieval walls of the fortress, and up to almost biblical-looking houses hanging from the cliff along a narrow, dusty path. The higher I climbed, the more the din of the city faded away.
I finally reached a small patio. It was an L-shaped stretch of light ochre stone tucked into a corner of the Kasbah’s high walls. The setting sun’s final rays warmed up the spot, swept with a fresh breeze from the Mediterranean which came to curl up against the old bricks.
A pile of half-charred schoolbooks sat in a corner, still smoking and filling the air with the smell of burning paper, which somehow seemed from another age. I could make out some of the Arabic letters, written in blue ink on pages slowly flipping in the wind. Compared to down near the port, this place was so calm and silent that I could almost hear the embers cracking.
An old man in a djellaba was sitting above the patio, just next to the steps. His face was drowning in wrinkles, his skin tanned and almost leathery. He was also staring down at the books, and it almost seemed as if he was longing, just like me, to jump back into the past. But he already fit right into this scene, so much so that I could swear I’d once seen him in an old religious engraving.
I only stayed a few seconds before I made my way further along the path. There were more people up there, the view was more scenic, right there in front of the Bab Bhar that leads into the Medina. But I’d barely made it two steps when my peaceful journey back into the past ended. I heard the distant roar of traffic again, smelled the gasoline, and all that was left to see were a few colorful plastic wrappers twirling in the wind. Time started again.