Tangiers: Medina

Extract from Burgess’s novel of Tangiers, Enderby Outside (1968):

Tangiers sounded like just the sort of place a man of Rawcliffe’s type would end up in. Moorish catamites. Drinking himself to death. Drinking was too slow a process.

His true place was that Kasbah, high up at the end of the town, where beggars slept at night in the doorways of shark shops, all Rif rifles from the iron-founding Midlands.

Up there the white huddled Medina on the hill, once watchful of the sea-invaders. Blood and buggery, the Koranic cry of teeth as the scimitar slashed. And now a pretty cram of stucco for the visiting painter. Donkeys, palms, the odd insolent Cadillac with a sneering wealthy young Moor in dark glasses. This bilious sea. There were not, thank Allah, many police about and, in any case, they did not greatly molest beggars.

‘Give him something, George, go on. Poor old man.’

And the plebeian tourist, in open-necked shirt and double-breasted town suit, handed Enderby a tiny clank of centimes. His wife, growing a lobster colour that was vulgarly Blackpool, smiled in pity. Enderby bowed and allahed.

It was really surprising what you could pick up on this game — handfuls of small tinkle that often added up to well over a dirham, filthy torn notes that the donors probably thought carried plague, the absurd largesse of holiday drunks. He was eating, if not sleeping, well on it all. Arab bread with melon-and-ginger confiture, yummiyum couscous (better than Easy Walker’s), fowl-hunks done with saffron, thin veal-shives in a carraway sauce — all at a quiet fly-buzzing incurious shop near the little Souk or Succo, one that had, moreover, a Western WC instead of a hazardous wog crouch-hole. He was also drinking a fair quantity of mint-tea, good for his stomach.

 

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