A return to Tangier after 23 years!

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April 7th 2019
Published: April 16th 2019
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It’s 23 years since we visited Tangier on a long weekend from Gibraltar. Since then we’ve been on so many adventures and travelled so many miles. We wondered if, in the intervening years, this intriguing city had stayed the same. The truth is, neither of us could recognise it from our memories!

We drove up to Valencia and stayed in the Travelodge near the airport ready for an early morning Ryanair flight to Morocco. Everything went smoothly and before we knew it our taxi was dropping us off at the foot of the medina and Google Maps was guiding us through the maze of streets to Riad Tingis. Fending off guides, official or not, was tiresome. We were relived to get to the door of the riad and led up to the rooftop terrace while we waited for our room to be ready. As we were so early we presumed it would be a long wait and settled ourselves down to relax with an amazing view and some delicious mint tea. They even brought us some breakfast, but forgot to tell us the room was ready! We were too chilled out to worry about it.

The weather forecast for our 3 days in the city was shocking. Bearing that in mind we wandered down through the medina to the port which was the starting point for the open top red bus tours. On the way we were blown away by the beautiful streets and alleyways we encountered. At the port a bus was about to leave so we hopped on and enjoyed both routes from the comfort of the upper deck. It was a bit chilly in the breeze but the sun was shining and the commentary was interesting, apart from the repetitive music between information stops.

We were given snippets of the history of Tangier as the driver carefully negotiated the cramped streets he was expected to drive through. At times there was just an inch or two to spare but he safely took us round. The blue route took us around the city and skirted the edge of the Kasbah, and it got us orientated for further exploration. Once back at the port, the bus stopped for a comfort break and then we were off on the red route out of town.

We were transported through the beautiful hilly countryside surrounds towards Cap Spartel where the Atantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea. We had a short stop there to view the lighthouse and the magnificent coastline before we were whisked further out to the Cave of Hercules. This was particularly touristy and we were lucky that we found our way into the cave before the hordes of international visitors. What it is like in the height of the season we don’t wish to find out! Where the cave opens out to the blue waters (of the ocean?) it is supposedly shaped like the outline of the African continent. With some imagination you can see what they mean!! For €13 each we thought the bus was reasonable value, although we didn’t use it as planned on the next day as the weather closed in as forecast.

The next day began with a lot of rain. That meant we had to eat breakfast indoors away from the wonderful views. We then scuttled through the narrow streets of the medina to the American Legation Museum. This historic building was given to the USA by Morocco as it became the first country in the world to recognise American independence. Nowadays it holds an impressive collection of artworks related to Morocco. British artist James McBey and his American artist wife feature heavily. There is also a special section dedicated to American author Paul Bowles who translated Moroccan literature as well as writing his own novels and poems.

A few twists and turns away was the Musée de la Foundation Lorin, housed in a former synagogue which is now used as a small theatre. An impressive collection of old black and white photos of Tangier life is displayed over two storeys.

After cowering away from further showers in Café Central there was finally a glimmer of hope with the weather. That meant we walked out into the new part of town in search of the bus station and information for our onward travels. After that we headed down to the corniche where the heavens opened again and drove us into a new, glitzy shopping centre. That proved to be the end of the bad weather and we made our way back along the promenade to take a closer look at the new marina which is partially open. Russ got told off for taking photos in the new development. Are they ashamed of it or something? It’s certainly a place that will attract tourists in the future as the pace of development picks up and the seafront apartments are completed.

April showers greeted us on the Saturday morning so breakfast was once again taken indoors. We wandered through the streets of the medina in search of the Kasbah, and when we found the old walls we were not disappointed. The Islamic architecture of the Kasbah Museum was beautiful, and had far more “wow factor” then the exhibits it contained. The Andaluz garden was particularly disappointing, but the old maps and the mosaic floor depicting the goddess Venus on a boat were impressive.

We had a nice time exploring the fish market, and the souk where fruit, vegetables and cheese were in plentiful supply. The offal section of the meat souk was far from pleasant though!! The late afternoon was spent back in the new town at the imaginatively named “English Pub” where we drank beer and feasted on free snacks like fried fish, kebabs and white beans, while watching Brighton lose an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium. Russ was cursing not being there, but at least the pub put it on TV for him thanks to our recce the previous day!!

As for food, Morocco has so much to offer. We loved schwarma for lunch and hot harrira soup as a starter in the evenings. Tagines and couscous dishes rarely disappoint, and mint tea with sweet treats always ensures for a wonderful finish to any meal here. We have to give a shout out to Le Bistrot where we ate on their rooftop despite the showers and the cold wind. On a warm dry evening it would be heaven indeed. The Restaurant Ahlen Medina was cheap and cheerful, but very popular and it’s where we would head to if we were back in Tangier again.

The next morning, we headed off to Ceuta, one of two Spanish exclaves in Morocco. The plan had been to take the bus but a grand taxi all the way from the medina to the border was only going to cost us €40 so we opted for the lack of hassle and let our driver take us all the way along the spectacular coastal road.

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16th April 2019

We've been to Morocco but didn't make it to Tangier. Sounds like it has changed a lot since you've been there. We hope to check it out at some point.

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