The best memories of travel are of the people we meet along the way. This is, after all, why we travel: because we learn as much about ourselves as we do about others, but what we learn about ourselves we learn through others' eyes. In that spirit, one of my fondest memories of Tangier will be of Mustapha Cherqui, the caretaker of St. Andrew's Church.
Just up the hill from the Medina, we were poking our heads through the garden gate of the Church of St. Andrew's, looking for a bench on which to rest momentarily. Mustapha noticed us immediately, put down his garden shears, and came down the path to greet us. With a big, warm smile, he ushered us inside and into the church's cool garden. He explained proudly he had been the church's caretaker for 45 years, and before we thought to ask, opened the church for us to see.
The church, too, was impressive: a 19th century built in a respectful Moorish style; framed pictures inside showed the church in the days it overlooked green hillsides and the sweeping, sandy coastline rather than the urban, boxy skyline of a modern city and the managed steel sides of an industrial port. The stonework and carved wood of the bright, quiet interior were charming.
But it is Mustapha I will most remember, and the manner in which he welcomed us, showed us with sincere pride his home and his work, and made us feel like invited guests. Turning to leave, I reached into my pocket to pay the inevitable tip as we returned to the door. But he pointed me instead to the alms box, where we made a donation. I pressed a coin into his hand anyway as thanks, and as we walked the garden path back down to the street I saw from the corner of my eye that he slipped the coin to an older woman sitting quietly on a bench under the trees.
"Enjoy your trip. Thanks for visiting us," he called out to us. In a nation of warm, welcoming people, Mustapha was one of the warmest.
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