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Published: April 21st 2019
The journey on a local bus from Chefchaouen back down the hill to Tétouan was uneventful save for the kids needing sick bags after just the first couple of twists and turns! Luckily it didn't become an epidemic and we were soon jumping into a taxi and on our way to the Hotel Al Mandari.
Perched on the edge of a cliff, it occupies a spectacular location in itself, but we were not prepared for the spectacle of the city of Tétouan. How this gets left off tourist itineraries is beyond belief.
Our first stop was the impressive Place Feddane, an enormous square, gleaming white at the foot of the hill over which spreads the most magnificent display of white houses topped by a crumbling old barracks and kasbah. Where Chefchaouen was a blaze of beautiful blue, Tétouan was a blinding brilliant blanco
! The Cafe Granada
was to become our go-to place for a coffee break, and it was a fabulous location for people watching.
The streets of Tétouan demonstrate that it was the capital of the Spanish protectorate as Spanish colonial architecture is everywhere. It is quite a sight, especially down the (mostly) pedestrianised Avenue Mohamed V which leads all the way
from the Spanish church to the Royal Palace. The large round plaza in front of the Royal Palace is closed off to the public but it is surrounded by lively shops and cafes. Bizarrely the game of choice played in those cafes was something similar to Ludo! Whilst there may be many beautiful cafes around, they are predominately (possibly strictly) male only so we didn't venture inside any of them. Nearby there was what looked like an old barracks building which various unwanted guides kept referring to as something to do with Franco but we never did find out the story.
Wandering inside the medina
alleyways was sensory overload. Visually it was amazing, but the smells, especially around the fish and meat sellers, was something you wouldn't want to bottle and sell! Earlier, we had experienced the disappointment of national museums being closed due a strike. The modern art museum is housed in the old railway station and we wanted to see inside the building more than anything. The striking staff even told us that we couldn't take photos of the building! A zoom lens is very handy some times!!
Inside the medina
though, we eventually found our
way to Dar El Oddi.
The inside of this beautiful traditional house needs to be seen to be believed. It houses a collection of paintings, prints and photographs showing Tétouan throughout the years. They even have an original Bertuchi to admire. The exhibits of postcards and stamps were wonderful too. We were lucky enough to meet the owner, the grandson of the original owner who made it his mission to restore his childhood home to its former glory. He was such a nice man and we had a good chat with him in a bizarre mix of English and Spanish.
High above the city sits the old kasbah
. It was quite a walk to get up there and along the way we passed several donkeys carrying goods to and from the markets. It has not been developed for tourism and therefore there are no signs to help you out. We eventually found our way inside and the streets are not as white as we expected them to be. The upper parts are pure white, but the lower walls are painted various shades of green, blue and red. Getting lost in the maze of streets is easy so we retraced our steps
and found a better way to the ruined barracks we had seen from below. It was a great place to sit and enjoy the sunshine, admiring the views out over the city and its surroundings. The walk down the steep steps eventually led us into the heart of the medina
and the familiar sights, sounds and smells!
Eating out is a challenge if you want to keep costs down without eating endless kebabs and sandwiches. The handful of riads
with restaurants inside the medina
asked prices we were not prepared to pay. On two nights we ate in the courtyard of the Restinga restaurant.
As well as tasty food and a good atmosphere, it had the added attraction of serving beer! The best food though, was at La Esquina del Pescado,
just round the corner from the hotel. It may look like it would charge premium prices but it does not. Close by was Helados Atlas where it seemed that every family and female group in town was sat outside eating ice cream and dessert. We joined in the fun!
So, as you can see, we really enjoyed Tétouan and feel it should receive more tourists. That lack of visitors gives it
a very Moroccan feel as you wander through the streets in the evening surrounded by the general populous. Next up was a 9 hour journey eastwards and we left feeling rested enough to handle the journey!
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