Wildlife in the medina of Tangier
Actually, the French Consulate General isn't in the medina any longer (the old French Legation was in a historic building – Dar al Niyaba – that once housed the Sultan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the International Zone era). Now it's at the center of the modern city, la Place de France.
Consul General Jean-Yves Berthault, Arabist and career diplomat with a string of tough posts to his name (he has served as Ambassador to Afghanistan), has found his second calling: author of the latest Khbar Bladna title, Les Oies du Consulat.
Illustrated with B & W photos of the turkeys, peacocks – and, of course, the geese of the title – who populate the Consulate's pond, the little book is a joy to those who appreciate Jean-Yves and his open approach to diplomacy. There's even Hijab, his roly poly cat.
We like animal stories, especially when the animals are those in our immediate neighborhood. But wait: the Legation is in the medina, right? Animals in the labyrinth of the old walled city?
Yes, and we're not just talking the ubiquitous cats who love to climb over our flat roofs and do death-defying leaps across our courtyards. And the cats, who can be a nuisance in mating season (all year 'round), at least keep those other urban denizens, the rats, at bay. There's Mimi, our neighbor's cat, who has adopted us and manages to sniff out when we settle into the rooftop Minzah room for a sundowner. There are no property lines on the roofs over the medina. Especially for cats.
We do have a few dogs in the 'hood, heard barking sometimes when the call to prayer is particularly intense. Birds, especially seagulls with the port just down the hill, abound.
And we've seen a Barbary ape perching on a neighbor's balcony.
Last week I witnessed the infrequent visit to our street of a tajine and kanoun salesman, his wares piled atop a donkey (click to enlarge photo).
But the Legation's Lions probably set the bar unattainably high for wildlife seen in the medina of Tangier.
Too long to go into in this space, two consecutive American Consuls in Tangier had to deal with the Gift of Lions. His Majesty the Sultan of Morocco presents lions to His Excellency the President of the United States. A gift you can't refuse, but you can't afford either (hint: lions eat a lot, and American Consuls circa 1830 don't earn much).
Read about the way the Consuls dealt with the lions on the Legation website.