A Surprise Trip to Tangier

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June 25th 2008
Published: July 1st 2008
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Al MersaAl MersaAl Mersa

Mersa is the Arabic word for fish market or port - which is the same thing when you think about it. I finished off my meal with the requisite glass of mint tea.
When I went to the bus station in Meknes to see if I could get a grand taxi or a bus to Chefchouen I found that there aren´t any direct taxis, plus the only bus is at 5am. I didn´t feel like waiting another twenty hours for the next bus, so I took the first bus that was heading north. It would take me to Tangier and I figured when I got to Tangier I could stay if I liked it, or see if I could get to Chefchouen from there.

Luckily on the bus I happened to sit next to a Moroccan who has been living for several years in Virginia and who also wasn´t intending to go to Tangier. Perhaps it´s the luxury of traveling alone, or perhaps it´s the haphazard transportation in Morocco, but somehow going to a city one didn´t intend to go to at all has become the norm. At least while I´m on vacation it adds to the adventure. If I actually needed to go to Chefchouen for something I would be cursing Moroccan transportation instead of glowing about how fun and exciting it is.

To make a long story short - I
The PortThe PortThe Port

Nobody minded me wandering around the port or even playing with the fishing nets, but the part that said Royal Yacht Club was off limits to poor backpackers.
loved Tangier. I was prepared not to like it. I had very low expectations: a border town that I expected to be centered around the port and have an industrial feel to it like Casablanca. But Tangier surprised me. It´s a lovely city perched on the hills above the port, with a nice beach off to the side and quite separated from the shipping areas of the port.

The first thing I did in Tangier was go to the fish market by the port to see what the catch of the day was. The Moroccan-Virginian I had met in the bus decided to play guide for me even though he had never been to Tangier before either. Hichem ordered a platter of fish which turned out to be a few of everything with breaded calamari on top. Some of the fish were breaded and fried, some were steamed with herbs and butter. It was delicious and I had a fun time piling up the fish heads and bones beside the platter. Cats wound around my ankles beggin for scraps. It was far too muc food for two people and the cats got more than their fair share.

The Mediterranean from AfricaThe Mediterranean from AfricaThe Mediterranean from Africa

Sometimes I forget that Morocco is in Africa and every time I think about being in North Africa it seems to exotic.
lunch we found a clean hotel close to the beach with a couple of rooms available - then it was off to the beach. I was excited to see the Mediterranean from the African side, since I had only seen it from France till now. The beach wasn´t particularly clean and I didn´t go swimming, but it was fun to watch all the Moroccans playing on the beach. I don´t think I saw any foreign tourists, which is another thing I loved about Tangier. After Marrakech and the busloads of foreign tourists at Oualili, Tangier was refreshingly Moroccan. If there were other foreign tourists in Tangier there weren´t enough for me to notice them.

Most of the places I´ve visited in Morocco are either undeveloped and not at all touristy, or developed and full of tourists. Tangier was developed and beautiful, but not touristy. It was refreshing and I felt very comfortable there.

The next morning I had breakfast at a cafe some locals had recommended. Cafe Hafa is up on the bluff overlooking the bay and serves the typical (and delicious) mint tea that I have gotten used to drinking every day. I missed good Moroccan tea
Morocco has CamelsMorocco has CamelsMorocco has Camels

It´s funny to see camels so far from the Sahara but then again, Spain was invaded with camels from Tangier in the 700s. They were apparently very good in battle and scared the Spanish horses because they were so strange and tall.
so much while I was in the US.

Tangier is known for a kind of soup called bisara. It´s made with fava beans, which are blended to a smooth soup and topped with stripes of olive oil and sprinkled with cumin and red pepper. I´ve had it in other places in Morocco, but Tangier does have the best. I had never thought of it as breakfast food but that´s what Cafe Hafa serves for breakfast so I gave it a shot and loved it. There are very few Moroccan dishes I don´t love, but bisara does rate up as one of the best.

Though I had a great time wandering around Tangier the beach isn´t the best so when Hichem said he was heading to a little beach town his friends had recommended I decided to tag along.

Additional photos below
Photos: 9, Displayed: 9


Ferries to SpainFerries to Spain
Ferries to Spain

Sitting on the beach I watched the ferries coming and going from Spain. It´s exciting to think about going there but also scary to leave my comfort zone in Morocco and go to a new country. I´m not quite ready to say goodbye to Morocco yet.
Exploring the CityExploring the City
Exploring the City

Tangier really is a lovely city and the views of the sea are always so colorful. I don´t usually walk around with my camera in my hand (like the tourist I am) but in Tangier I couldn´t stop taking pictures.
Cafe HafaCafe Hafa
Cafe Hafa

This was my view while enjoying a hot bowl of bisara and a tall glass of mint tea for breakfast.
Wandering the StreetsWandering the Streets
Wandering the Streets

I was left alone to wander as I pleased through the streets. Nobody bothered me, but every time I asked for directions people were very helpful and kind. It´s going to be hard to leave Morocco.
The Haha DoorThe Haha Door
The Haha Door

Haha is a tribe in the Rif mountains but I had to post this because I thought the sign was so funny. Tangier is charming and I can see why Paul Bowels and so many other expats have lived here.

1st July 2008

I told you so!
Glad you enjoyed Tangers, I did too. and I'm glad you got a guide in Oualili. I knew it would help. Sorry I didn't mention how close Moulay Idriss is from Oualili! Enjoy spain, we miss you!
27th July 2008

i liked Tangier too! Marrakesh right now is pretty fantastic!

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