Tarifa was barely awake when we set out to find a quick breakfast before boarding the 35 minute ferry to Tangier, Morocco. The ferry driver must have been keeping a Spanish schedule because it was almost 50 minutes until we arrived at the African port. I’m happy to say my weak stomach held up quite well through the ebb and flow. But, we made the big mistake of not getting our passport stamped on board. The announcement was very unclear and there was not sign informing us that this must be done on the boat. So after a bit of a stall we were finally off to find out hotel, new passport stamp in hand.
As this was my first time in Africa I didn’t know what to expect from Tangeir, but it was like most cities, just a bit rundown and seemed to be in constant repair. The harder part of the journey was not finding the location of our hotel through the flurry of ornate Arabic writing, but fending off the many locals who wanted to “help us” find our way. They first tried leading us into the entry instead of the exit from the dock, then getting us to take a cab, then to be our personal tour guide. I find it so distasteful to be bothering in this way continually, but such was life in Tangier and most arabic countries. Something you must get used to and not be afraid to say “no” firmly.
We began to explore the outskirts of Tangier, near the Medina by first visiting Mendoubia Gardens. This was not the kind of park I was used to, as it was mostly concrete and clearly unkempt. For a tourist local this was definitely not the best-of-the-best. We scaled a short staircase to see the above monument (Mohammed V’s plea for Independence), the only portion of the park worth visiting, and admired the elegant script chiseled into the stone.
The Grand Bazaar in Turkey could not have prepared me for entering the Medina. The streets were narrow, crowded, and filthy. With vendors selling everything from a pack of tissues to 1 knock-off baseball cap to chocolate. Things were being sold everywhere! Both inside stores and stall and merely on the sidewalk space. It was a wonder that we didn’t get hit by the speeding cars snaking their way through this maze at top speed, startling unsuspecting pedestrians as they cruised by.
One our way to the Kasbah Museum we noticed this amazing vista through a crumbling arch way at the highest point in the Kasbah. Tangier’s coastline featured some of the bluest water I have ever seen, as well as signs of progress in rebuilding this city. What the photograph doesn’t capture is the mounts of rubble and trash on the side of the look-out point. Left behind by builders and added to by uncaring locals. It was heart breaking to see and I wished for some community efforts that would work on sanitation, clean-up, and beautification of this area.
I might have missed this sight if my travel companion didn’t have the foresight to look up. While photography was not permitted in the Kasbah Museum itself. This anterior room filled with a large unused chest featured this intricate ceiling. How stunning! It made the museum visit well worth it, I can’t even remember what else was inside.
The inner courtyard of the museum also boasted rich architecture, with stunning Tudor archways, painted with golden, green and red accents. The center has a water feature dwarfed by the size of the courtyard. It was unfortunately not active while we were in the building (probably due to our off-season visit).
A different world inside our hotel
After a lot more walking and exploring other areas in Tangier, we continued our tradition of siesta at our hotel. (Or at least I did, in a allergy induced slumber from all of the dust and smoke.) The views from our hotel made it seem like we were actually in a paradise, with giant palm trees lining the beach and crystal clear water. From inside here, it was a whole different world.
Eating our in Tangier
After failing to get into a few recommended restaurants from our guidebooks (they were closed or missing…) we looked to the web. After a quick check on TripAdvisor, we decided on a restaurant called Art et Gourmet. All of the menus were adhered on the back on painted canvases. Adding to the appeal of this restaurant overlooking Tangier’s Grand Socco. The food was spectacular, the best we would have in Morocco. Seemingly indicating many good meals ahead. It was a bit pricey for Tangier, but well worth the deliciousness.
With just two days we were able to see a great deal of the city before heading off to get lost in the medina in Fez, check out the story here.