Morocco. A desert oasis; a manic, vibrant cacophony. People, culture, religion, food, landscapes and ancient cities; we were all in for a Moroccan adventure sampling some of the countries cities, sights, sounds and smells. First step onto the African continent for us was Morocco’s northern port of Tangier; a city of hustlers.
Tangier has an eclectic reputation partly contributed to by the various poets, artists and musicians who frequented the city during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, and that bohemian feeling remains. Heady with European ambitions conflicted with Islam, wild, exciting, and for us a landing point.
We flew into Tangier from London Gatwick with Air Arabia for £60.97 each, inclusive of taxes and booking fees. We’ve never used Air Arabia before and were both impressed with the staff, aircraft and leg-room; however it is a budget flight so expect to pay for everything, including water.
Tangier Airport is very small so don’t worry about being there long. You need to exchange your currency here as you can’t buy Dirham’s outside of Morocco, and that’s the only pause before you are outside.
To reach the city I would recommend getting a taxi as the other options are walking 8-9km, or rental car. Walk straight out the front doors, across the car park and to the right you will see a line of Grand Taxis (old Mercedes saloons) accompanied by a few drivers smoking to the side. It costs 150MAD (Moroccan Dirham’s) to buy the whole taxi to take you from the airport into the centre of Tangier (Note – See my guide to Moroccan taxis post) and it takes about 10 minutes.
Hint – Figure out EXACTLY where you are staying and tell the driver to take you as close as possible. Cars can’t go inside the Medina so if your accommodation is inside, tell him to take you to the closest gate. We were dropped at a gate (he could have driven to our door) and passed to a ‘guide’ who delivered us with a smile and a story to our door, but demanded a fee (we ended up giving him 20MAD to go away). It’s an agreement between drivers and local guides and it’s a tourist scam, which we fell for. If this is cool with you or you are having trouble finding your accommodation then by all means follow the guide and pay the man 10-20MAD for his troubles, after all it’s only about £1.40. Otherwise just say you know where you are going and walk away with purpose, they aren’t scary or dangerous and are just trying to make a buck.
We used Airbnb and paid £34 (two people) for one night including breakfast. We stayed with a lovely French lady in a gorgeous villa in the Kasbah with an expansive roof terrace overlooking the Medina. Our host gave us some great advice and the best breakfast we had in Morocco, she even helped hook us up with our driver for the next day (more next post).
Tangier is quite cheap and hostel dorms start from around £7 (100MAD) per night. A cheap hotel might set you back around £25 (350MAD) for a double room but be sure to do your research and read reviews before you book.
The Medina in Tangier is a warren of tiny streets and alleys, which is hard not to get lost in. We arrived late and left our accommodation at about 9pm as most of the shops and restaurants were closed/closing). At that time of night the winding alleys and sparse street lights make exploring a little intimidating, although we never felt threatened, and the experience is less vibrant than it would be in the daylight. We ended up getting lost, eating Harira in what turned out to be the Grand Socco (main square), getting lost again and returning home late for a bit of roof terrace action.
Our meal was basic but good, about 60MAD ($4.20) for soup, bread, olives, fritters and mint tea for two people.
Spend a day wandering the medina sampling food from the Grand Soco and taking coffee in the Petit Soco and really just following your nose. There are churches, museums and oddities a-plenty, all offering a glimpse at the city’s storied history. Get lost, stumble across some live music and make your way to the iconic Café Baba for a tea and a smoke with the locals.
Hint – French or Spanish (or Arabic!) will serve you better than English, so polish up on your phrases.
Tangier for one night:
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