‘If you are not lost within a minute, you’re not trying hard enough’ – my search for magical Morocco

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It’s celebrated as a place that influenced generations of artists. Our writer attempts to recapture the spirit on an overland journey from London to Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains

In Tangier, fresh off the ferry from Spain, I walk along the esplanade in cool morning air, then take the steps up into the casbah. My journey to Morocco started at St Pancras station in London three days earlier, and I spent a night each in Barcelona and Algeciras. I feel none of the dislocation or awkwardness that a flight would entail. I’ve seen the landscapes change: the lavender fields of Provence, the peach groves of Catalonia, then the wild upland magic of La Mancha. I spotted my first Arabic sign in Spain yesterday. Now the crafted casbah of Tangier seems like the natural next step. I take a turn up a narrow alleyway and pass an elderly couple, the woman in a straw hat decorated with fresh flowers, her husband hooded in a thick woollen burnous.

The casbah is quiet. I stumble into the only place where things are happening: the meat market. By western supermarket standards, this bazaar is a challenge: entire blood-dripping carcasses on hooks, a man sorting through yards of slithery steaming intestines with his bare hands.

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