Tangier is a port city in the Mediterranean coast of Morocco. Gibraltar and Spain are bit a stone’s throw away, and on a clear day, you can see the coast in the distance. Historically, because the place was loosely governed at best it had a reputation for hosting artists, authors, rich Europeans, and other such people who wanted to escape the rules and stringency of the Western world, and do whatever it is their heart desired, no matter how forbidden or naughty it was.
Because of its close proximity to Europe, and the heavier level of Western influence, the city itself has a more European feel both in its architecture, and it’s people. There is a slight air of laxity that is not really there in Marrakech, and for this reason, it feels a bit more like home than Marrakech.
Carrie and I take the overnight train from Marrakech for ~$50CAD, which includes our own beds with linens, and a dirty washroom. In all honesty it is quite a bit nicer than the sleeper trains I took in India. Our guesthouse is located in the outer edges of the medina, or the fortified wall of the old city. The medina, as in Marrakech, is a mix of both residential and commercial buildings many of which with walkways or “streets” barely 2 meters wide. All this makes for a very quaint walking experience. You can definitely sense that this is very much a tourist place to go, as many people will solicit tours, or offer to help for a few Dirhams. However, people here seem to be much nicer too, and they tend not to aggressively go after you for a sale as they do in Marrakech.
I’m usually pretty good with directions, but I could not figure our North from South in the Medina for the life of me. I honestly suggest that if you’re trying to get anywhere, use a map to get a general sense of which direction you need to go, and just walk. Forget about getting anywhere at a particular time, just wander and you’ll eventually get there. Or not. Whatever. It’s all good!
If you are in town on Thursday or Saturday, I highly suggest going to the markets where you can see all the townsfolk from nearby countrysides come down to sell produce, honey, cheese, and other goods. The short walk around and seeing the grannies in their traditional wear is a worthwhile sight in itself. The pretty affordable produce and cheese also makes for a cheap, healthy meal of fruits and veggies back at the guesthouse or at a park. Not that Moroccan food is particularly bad for you, but for someone who has a pretty produce heavy diet, the very bready diet of North African can be hard on the digestive tract!
I will write another post on European influence that Tangier has experienced and how that sets it apart from Marrakech and most other Moroccan cities. Of note for now is that there are quite a few churches here, and large ones at that. I can only assume that there is a sizable Christian population here living cohesively with the majority Muslim population.
For now, I will say that simply wandering in the Medina, and sitting in a patio having some coffee or tea while people watching is one of Tangier’s simple pleasure. I really hope you get to come here and experience a piece of this for yourself!
- Carrie and I stayed at Bayt Alice. It’s marketed as a hotel but it is more of a guesthouse. Rooms are beautifully decorated in old Maroc fashion. The house itself boasts a marble staircase, and a plenty of nooks for reading, watching Netflix, or having a quiet meal. There is a kitchenette, but no full kitchen. Carrie and I had an avocado toast dinner in the top floor’s dining room. If you go in the summer, the terrace offers beautiful views of the city. There is also a friendly cat that lives on site. Plugs and reading lights with dorm beds.
- Train tickets can be booked the day before, or you can risk it with the day of (not recommended). Cost of taxi from train station to the medina should cost 10-20 Dirhams.
- we had breakfast pastries and coffee at Champ Elysees, a old, but grand cafe outside of the Medina. Pastries are tasty, coffee is fresh, and the air very tabacco-y from the old men who read newspapers and chat there. Worth a visit for a light breakfast!
- The Kasbah is a fortress within the walled city, and it houses a museum there. This is well worth a visit if you’re hoping to learn a bit about the history of Tangier and Morocco
- The Museum of American Legation was located around the corner from Bayt Alice, and offered an insider look into the early relationship between the Sultan of Morocco, and George Washington. Apparently he was amongst the first dignitary to recognize the United States as an independent country. The lengthy historical relationship between Americans and the Moroccan government make for a educational experience, in a beautifully restored AmericanXMoroccan style home.