Welcome to the maddening world of trying to get around a North African city like Tangiers. Belle and I took a self-directed tour of the ancient city the other day, and came away both enlightened and flabbergasted as to how such a sprawl of humanity could ever hope to function as a meaningful urban organism. Few street names visible; no traffic lights to speak of; a dire shortage of parking; pedestrians cross at intersections at their own peril; roads full of potholes; and signposts virtually non-existent as to speed, location, and hazard. So how does Tangiers make it through an average day without an excess of calamity and chaos? For starters, a rather battered fleet of economy-sized taxis becomes the preferred way of travel through the labyrinthine maze of darkened backstreets. Few Tangierians move outside their area, where it the peurto, centro, Medina, beachfront, or back in the hills. People that we met throughout the day were blithely unaware about places like St. Andrew’s church or the American Legation.The city has five main mosques that form the spiritual hubs for Muslims. Walk around anyone of these enclaves at, say, three in the afternoon, and you will likely be audience to a litany of prayers offered in the direction of Mecca, a couple of thousand of miles to the east. The small map of the city we carried was pretty well useless because, once again, one wrong move and you were lost, with nothing to direct you but you wits, the overhead sun, and the glimpse of the sea looking north towards the Straits of Gibraltar. When we finally figured things out, by tramping around in circles, half the day was gone. Then it suddenly occurred that our real reason for coming was to wander the streets soaking up the culture of a levantine city in free-fall, and what better way to do that than by breaching the walls of the old city. We quickly did that and suddenly the chaos and din of unregulated traffic along wide, open boulevards gave way to narrow wending streets bustling with local merchants selling all manner of wares from makeshift stalls. As we moved up Rue la Kasbah, places on our rudimentary map suddenly appeared like magic. The Medina, in all its humility and grinding poverty, was showing what it means to live in the Arab world: streets so narrow that the overhanging buildings meet each other in the middle. To walk around a sector of town is to willingly subject oneself to the languor of being lost without too much risk. In these semi-darkened corridors, lined with numerous little hole-in-the-wall businesses, an outsider like myself becomes privy to intrusive noises, fragrant aromas, vibrant designs and rich colors that only pique the senses of a Westerner. Something weird happened mid-afternoon that I am not sure what to attribute it to. We had finished our walk around by four and decided to head back to the ferry, two hours in advance of our sailing. We arrived to discover that due to the possibility of even higher winds and heavy seas, a bigger ferry had docked early to take us home within the hour. Since we do not carry a cellphone, we did not get the change of plans from the company, so might have been out of luck if we taken longer to discover the true essence of Tangiers. Finding one’s way around its many unnamed streets is well worth the experience if one keeps one’s head. Check the skyline, retrace your steps, pause and look around, but don’t even try to get a straight answer from a local as to which direction to go because it might send you deeper into uncertainty and despair of not understanding Tangiers.