Friday, November 21, 2014


People would ask me why I was so obsessed with Tangier and I would get this look on my face like I'd been spooked and whisper, "I don't know."

They say we were all created from the earth of different parts of the world and that same place is where we will eventually be buried. This must mean we have a special connection to this unnamed place, where it tugs at the hem of the skirt anytime we think about it or when we see it for the first time as the train pulls up. And we can hate it, just like we can hate ourselves.

I can only assume I was made from some little mound of dirt in a tiny corner of that wretched little town. It keeps calling me back but hasn't had a chance to kill me yet. If I am buried here some day by some curious circumstance, that's how we'll know for sure. And then I'll say it from my grave, in my spooky voice, "I called it!"

But I'm hoping it's not that.

Alexandria is just like Tangier. Not in the tugging-at-heart way, but in the sleepy, falling apart by the seaside and bursting at the seams sort of way. Like Cairo, Alex (as I now endearingly refer to her) is decidedly creepy. Everything is so old, there must be jinn around every bend. So much of the city looks like a dilapidated circus, peppered with old men sitting on the curb with just his feet sticking out from behind a clump of multicolored balloons.

On the ride into the city, I saw a faraway wonder, palace-shaped and decorated with silver sparkling lights. I assumed that it must be the Bibliothequa Alexandria or some other celebrated relic of the Hellenistic age- a broken-off piece of a face carved out of marble where a museum had been built, to celebrate the former glory it once symbolized. As we sped towards it at a steady speed of 120 mph down the Alexandria Desert Highway, I began to decipher its features as being those of an old castle or fortress. But then closer, the circus-like quality of the town began to manifest and I resolved it must be an amusement park. It looked more like the other structures along the coast, speckled with primary colors and flickering lights, which I had also decided were amusement parks. It wasn't until a few more minutes of the cars speeding and near death experiences that we drove clear alongside it, and I must have made a sound or a face or both because the driver stared at me sidelong as I found myself staring at nothing more than a factory. Fat cylindrical tubes connected vats to smokestacks with a winding staircase around its perimeter, suggesting there might be a little man up there, overseeing all of this, and plotting something. Parts of it seemed to be alive. It mostly reminded me of Batman's lair. Did Batman have a lair? Actually, from a distance the whole city looks like Gotham. From on the ground, scattered collections of ruins strung up with lights.