• 2024.02.08
  • Crossing the Strait of Gibraltar in search of a dragon

I went to Morocco for the year-end holidays, crossing the Strait of Gibraltar from the Algeciras Port in Spain and arriving at the Bay of Tangier in Morocco on the opposite side a little after seven in the evening on December 26. By the time we got to the place we were staying, it was around 12:30 at night. It took forever to get through immigration at port customs.

The ferry from Spain to Morocco

A mosque in the ferry

Passenger vehicles shared the same customs gate with RVs, vans piled twice their height with luggage, and even cargo trucks. The customs area turned into a flea market scene once the sketchy vehicles were asked to unload their Tetris-stacked cargo. Their items blocked the customs aisle, which naturally forced the cars behind to wait in line.
You can only enter Morocco with one bottle of alcohol per person. We had a bottle of bourbon and a bottle of champagne to celebrate the New Year with, but we were still forced to sit around doing nothing for so long that even if we had brought another two bottles, we probably could have downed them before we got through inspections.

We were surrounded by stern men in uniform—an officer checking inside the car, an officer with a German Shepherd, an officer checking passports and vehicle documents, and even a slender, athletic-looking officer who didn’t look like an officer at all.
While we were waiting, we saw someone (a refugee) attempting to climb the high fence to our side. The slender officer caught sight of him and made a mad dash after him, capturing him and forcing him back out.
Ah, I thought. That’s why that guy is the only one who looks like a sprinter.

When we finally arrived at our destination in Asilah, it had gotten so late that the time had slid into the next day—December 27.
Asilah is a port town facing the Pacific, located in the northwestern part of Morocco. It’s an ancient city once inhabited by the Phoenicians, at times under the control of both Portugal and Spain.

By the time we greeted the innkeeper and dropped off our luggage, it was already one in the morning. We were exhausted and hungry, but didn’t know whether we’d be able to get dinner. The innkeeper told us about a restaurant that was open very late at night, and we nearly ran towards it. The heavenly place that rescued our bellies and our hearts from despair was called Ali Baba.

It was my first time on the African continent and the beginning of my Moroccan adventure. My mission during the trip was to find a dragon in honor of the upcoming Year of the Dragon.


  • Megumi Ota
  • JobConservator, interpreter, and coordinator / Insitu (restoration), Kaminari-sama / Novajika, and others

I’m a conservator and preservationist living in Portugal. I specialize primarily in paintings (murals) and gold leaf design, and am involved with UNESCO World Heritage structures as well as the interior of the Palace of Belém. I derive great satisfaction from having close ties to my community in the rural village near the Silver Coast where I live. My hobby is gardening.

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