Written by skeptic on 02 Jan, 2009
Flight to Tangier is the name of an old movie starring Jack Palance. All good advice is to fly to Tangier rather than take the ferry from Spain, and that advice will not be contradicted here. It is good advice. However, we…Read More
Flight to Tangier is the name of an old movie starring Jack Palance. All good advice is to fly to Tangier rather than take the ferry from Spain, and that advice will not be contradicted here. It is good advice. However, we were on a budget and happened to be winding up a week in southern Spain, so the boat seemed our logical choice. Not so obvious was which ferry to take. We used some of our drive time in Spain to check out our options. This is what we found:The huge ferry port at Algericas seems to be the port of choice. You don’t purchase tickets at the port, but get them in advance at regional outlets. Notably, along the freeway from Malaga there are one or more stations dedicated to selling these tickets. Before making a decision we drove to the Algericas port and found it daunting to the extreme. Arriving we confronted a massive automobile staging lot. From all appearances, once we entered the gate we would be in Morocco in a few hours.Further along the coast we stopped at the Tarifa port. Much more hospitable. It’s a mom and pop operation compared to Algericas. We parked, went into the office, and asked some questions. Yes, we could purchase our tickets here just before departure. Yes, they take all major credit cards. The fare was about 50 Euros per person, round trip. Yes, we could park our rent car for free in an adjacent lot.And that’s it. Boats depart every two hours. Arrive at the scheduled time. Lock your rent car (and give a silent prayer), take your Tangier luggage and your passports. Get your tickets and clear customs and security.The boat ride spans 35 minutes and two different cultures. You will need to clear Morocco immigration on the way over. Find the immigration officer, who has an office on the boat, and get your passport stamped. Once in Tangier this guy is going to take his lunch break, and you may wait around 30 minutes while everybody else has departed.Leaving and entering port are great times for photos. There is a historic stone fort next to the ferry port, so take some time and get a few photos. Tarifa is a fishing port, as well, and fishing boats make for great photos. You will see a number of signs prohibiting photography. The Morocco navy has activity in the port. My advice—don’t be too obvious when taking photos. There’s an hour time shift between Spain and Morocco, so take this into account when planning your schedules.Now comes the fun part and the reason to take the Flight to Tangier. At the ferry port you will be greeted by a mob of would-be tourist guides and cab drivers. Arrival at the airport will spare you all this. We played it tough and waded through this mass. Our hotel was just a few blocks from the ferry landing, and we trundled our luggage over there.That was possibly a mistake. While the map shows a few blocks to the Hotel Tanjah Flandria, it fails to show a two hundred foot change in elevation. We got our workout for the week. The map also fails to show that street signs are not always obvious. Here is where proactive tourism kicks in.Don’t know any Arabic? Try your French. The French used to run this place. Spanish may work, as well and English almost as well. Friendly people on the street were happy to assure us yes, we were on Boulevard Mohamed V, and yes, our hotel was just two blocks up the street.Welcome to Tangier. Close
Since our Tangier car rental was a no-show (yet another story), we fell back on plan B. All the good travel guides declared the usability of the Morocco bus service, so we decided to give it a try. It’s a story in itself.The…Read More
Since our Tangier car rental was a no-show (yet another story), we fell back on plan B. All the good travel guides declared the usability of the Morocco bus service, so we decided to give it a try. It’s a story in itself.The desk clerk at the Hotel Tanjah Flandria indicated the bus terminal was only a few blocks down Mohamed V and to the right. We hoofed it down the hill, and after a stroll along a pleasant side street we found the terminal. And unrestrained chaos. Learn from our experience.There seemed to be a separate ticket window for each destination, and I inquired at one. The clerk tried to make me understand that we did not want to buy tickets at the window, and I at first went away not a little confused. Milling around outside, I observed what was going on. Some buses were parked there, and drivers were standing about hawking tickets. A kind individual explained we should go to that bus for Asilah.Quickly the mystery was solved. We handed over 10 dirhams (about one dollar) each and received a chit scribbled by the driver (or his henchman). Ultimately a saturation point was reached, and the driver motioned we should get aboard. And off we went to the Moroccan countryside. I couldn’t get over recalling James Stewart and Doris Day riding a bus across Morocco in The Man Who Knew Too Much. It was certain we were the only four people on the bus who did not speak Arabic and who did not know too much.After spending the remainder of the day at our destination, it was simple to reverse the process. We found a bus parked at the small Asilah station, and we each handed over another 10 dirhams for the ride back to Tangier and a walk back to the hotel.Summarizing: If you are going to Rabat or Casablanca, you will likely purchase a bus ticket at one of the windows. If you are going to a local stop, such as Asilah or Tetouan, you will need to look for a bus outside going to your destination and get a ticket from the driver. He will have a handful of chits, one for each available seat. He will take your money, mark your chit and hand it to you. If a bunch of you are going together, be sure to purchase tickets as a block. Else the tail enders in your party may find themselves waiting for the next bus. We never had to wait more than 30 minutes for a bus. That’s good, because restroom facilities at the bus terminals are extremely primitive by U.S. standards. On the bus, be prepared for a thoroughly Arab experience. You will become very familiar with your fellow passengers on even a short ride. Enjoy. You may not come this way again. Close
Written by daleyliz on 13 Jun, 2003
There is one thing a tour guide/travel agent will be sure to tell you when planning a trip to Morrocco. With a stern look, he/she will say, "Please be advised to travel in large groups of men and women. Going solo is not…Read More
There is one thing a tour guide/travel agent will be sure to tell you when planning a trip to Morrocco. With a stern look, he/she will say, "Please be advised to travel in large groups of men and women. Going solo is not recommended".
Despite the heeded warning, my boyfriend Justin and I decided to brave the trip alone. I had been living in Europe for over six months and needed an adventure - something off the beaten path. After gathering information from friends who had visited Morocco and Mauritania, I devised a tentative plan that provided a (albeit false) sense of security.
Our journey began in the port city of Algeciras, Spain, which in itself plays a very important role in international trade. Algeciras is located along the
Gilbraltar Straight, which connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. The town caters to the transient lifestyles of those who pass thru; convenience and service monopolize a town once rich with rivaling culture and history. Despite our time limitations, we had an hour to peruse the cobblestone streets of Algeciras' city center. Suprisingly, the town itself was manicured, tastefully decorated with minimal art sculptures. The street signs read both Arabic and Spanish. I hoped to see more of a Moorish infuence in
Algeciras; but the town serves its purpose as one of the busiest international seaports in the world.
We arrived by bus to the Port Authority of Algeciras, and bought two tickets for the 3pm Transmediterranea ferry to Tangier, Morrocco. It cost us around US$20 (currency conversion: US$1 to 11.5 Dirham), an affordable price for a cross-continental boat ride.
As the ferry left European soil into the open waterway, we had three hours to spare before reaching Tangier. The Western tourists primarily stayed on the decks of the boat, leisurely enjoying the rolling mountainscapes of Andalucia. The lower levels of the ferry were mostly occupied by Arab men and women, traditionally clad in Jelabahs. Jelabahs are long hooded robes that hide the body form and provide comfort in intense temperatures. I felt disrepectful in my shorts and tshirt, which in part stationed my travel on the upper deck.
My first look upon Tangiers was a memorable one. As the sun set, a brilliant gleam blinded our sight from the moutainous terrain overrun with decrepit buildings and Muslim mosques. I was handed a multicolored scarf by a French woman we chatted with on the ferry; I gratefully accepted it and covered my long red hair.
We found a room for under US$10 at the Hotel Continental (36 Rue Dar El Baroud Tel: 039-931024). Justin and I both bought jelabahs and entered into the medina shortly before dusk. Tangier reminded me of the Disney movie Aladdinm teeming with merchants constantly pushing items into our hands, haggling the price in order to make a sell. We were lead to an "African Herbsman" who concocted plant potions and sold packages of saffron.
Justin finally got the jist of the game and tried to sell me for 100 camels. It almost worked :).
Shortly, it became dark. Calls to prayer echoed throughout the alleys of the medina. Suddenly, the haggling stopped. The merchants swiftly packed up their goods and began to face east. The women, however, were nowhere to be seen. It is taboo for a woman to be out past dark in Tangier; I took this as my cue and headed back to the Hotel Continental.
Tangier is just the gateway to an ancient world seemingly untouched by westernized culture. Each city, mountaintown and roadside cafe tells a unique story. My time spent in Tangier was just a precursor to other cities in Morrocco; it is a fantastic introduction to a mystically enchanting ancient world.
Written by skeptic on 04 Jan, 2009
Tetouan is the real Morocco. Don’t expect to find a crowd of European (or American) tourists here in the mountains outside Tangier. Do expect to find the color and bustle of an authentic Moroccan city.Tetouan is a short bus ride from Tangier.…Read More
Tetouan is the real Morocco. Don’t expect to find a crowd of European (or American) tourists here in the mountains outside Tangier. Do expect to find the color and bustle of an authentic Moroccan city.Tetouan is a short bus ride from Tangier. Give the bus driver in Tangier about a Euro and hop aboard. On the road up into the mountains expect to see more of Morocco’s Berbers, who make up a sizable part of the population. The business of Tetouan daily life begins right outside the bus terminal.Trucks carrying fish from the port were unloading to vendors out on the sidewalk when we arrived. Fruits and vegetables were on display for sale along the street. That was a prelude to the medina.The traditional walled city is a crosshatch of streets lined with wonderful shops and goods for sale on the pavement. Festive banners are strung overhead, giving the place the air of a never-ending carnival. If the medina in Asilah is open and laid back, Tetouan’s medina is all business, all the time. You can deal with these merchants and practice your bargaining skills. It’s expected. You will be drawn to the colorful fruits, candies and other delights. The best advice is to resist the temptation.Tetouan’s other main tourist draw is just outside the main entrance to the medina. Beyond expansive Hassan II Square sits the compound of the Royal Palace. This sparkling white edifice recalls Morocco’s Spanish history and was restored 60 years ago to become a major tourist draw.Lining the opposite side of the square, expect your dining needs to be fulfilled. More traditional shops and restaurants line the streets, and you can sample some real Moroccan fare or maybe just wish for some home style food. Here is one data point: You may see "hamburger" listed on the menu, and you may order one. Expect to find sausage and egg included inside.Your Euros will likely spend well here in this principal city of northern Morocco, but carry a supply of the local dirhams just to be sure. Close
Written by skeptic on 03 Jan, 2009
We had only two days to explore outside Tangier, and our group leader picked Tetouan and the seaside town of Asilah. Great choice. Asilah is a delight for a short visit and to get the flavor of life in Morocco.Take a local bus…Read More
We had only two days to explore outside Tangier, and our group leader picked Tetouan and the seaside town of Asilah. Great choice. Asilah is a delight for a short visit and to get the flavor of life in Morocco.Take a local bus from Tangier and arrive after 40 minutes in Asilah. Please note the highway signs spell it Assilah. The bus stops beside the coast highway, and from there it is a short walk to the center of town and the traditional walled city, the medina.Stroll toward the waterfront and enter the medina across the plaza from the cluster of shops and restaurants on the beach. Enter another world.Absent is the mad bustle that is the medina of Tangier. The streets are quiet and more open, and the pace is relaxed. Whitewashed buildings gleam in the sun, a Berber woman carries produce on the back of a donkey and horse-drawn wagons rumble along stone streets. You are truly off the beaten path, but not so much so. I walked to the sea wall and recalled having seen this image before.At the bottom of the cliff, beyond the wall and below the city the North Atlantic beats against the rocks. Behind the wall, people live and work and carry on their lives, perhaps unaware of the charm outsiders find here. For the photographer there is the expected wealth of color as well as the delight of the unexpected.Dining is pleasant in Asilah. A small sidewalk café outside the main gate serves sandwiches and drinks. Adequate restroom facilities are available, unlike at the bus terminal. Take advantage.Additional sights await in the main town. Colorful carpets hang from terrace walls, and the sparkling white Christian Church of Saint Bartolome recalls the Spanish influence here. A road sign in Arabic and French reminds the visitor how far he is from home. Close
For a first time visitor wanting a taste of Africa, Tangier on the coast of Morocco is ideal. It’s African, it’s Arabic, it’s Muslim. And it’s cosmopolitan. Just a few miles from the European coast, it may be the most European city…Read More
For a first time visitor wanting a taste of Africa, Tangier on the coast of Morocco is ideal. It’s African, it’s Arabic, it’s Muslim. And it’s cosmopolitan. Just a few miles from the European coast, it may be the most European city in North Africa.The French have been here, and the Spanish. Street signs are in Arabic and French. Your Euros spend directly at many establishments, but you may also exchange them for the local dirham. As of January 2009 it’s about 8 dirhams to the dollar, down from 11 two years ago. Don’t get more dirhams than you need. They cannot legally be exported, and outside banks won’t take them. Many restaurants do not take credit cards.Northern Morocco is mountainous, and Tangier slopes steeply down to the waterfront. Walking about will give you a good workout, but taxis are cheap by U.S. standards. I paid about $5 for a trip to the railway terminal—would have cost me extra for additional passengers or luggage.Compared to some Muslim countries, Morocco is decidedly open-minded. Lot’s of women go around bare-headed, and you can get a drink in the restaurant. Expect the traditional call to prayers in the evening, but there are also synagogues and Protestant and Catholic churches. And, there’s Pizza Hut, and McDonald’s.Close by the ferry landing is the medina, the original walled city. Walk down from the hotel and find one of the openings into the medina. Stroll the twisting, narrow streets and take in the many markets and the brightly-painted fronts. It’s not just business. People live here, and their houses blend with the adjacent shops and offices. The scents of exotic cooking come from many doors.A great tradition is the evening stroll. Head down Mohamed V after dark and encounter thousands of people clogging the sidewalks. Groups of up to five women will be walking side-by-side, arms interlocked, taking in the evening. It’s no time to be in a hurry.Eat well. We skipped the American style shops and dined on pasta at an establishment near the hotel. The mint tea is a must. The waiter brought out a pot to serve our party of four. Our dessert was an ice cream dish that most resembled Neapolitan. We went back the next two nights, as well. Close
Written by zcat19892000 on 24 Jan, 2006
I had the most wonderful time here. To me, the most memorable moments were just walking through the streets of this lovely city, looking around at all the local faces, the buildings, the clothes they wore. Everything was just amazing! And I would recommend it…Read More
I had the most wonderful time here. To me, the most memorable moments were just walking through the streets of this lovely city, looking around at all the local faces, the buildings, the clothes they wore. Everything was just amazing! And I would recommend it for any adventurous or not-so-adventurous soul out there. Close
In the background there were men blowing on exotic instruments, giving the ambience a wonderfully authentic feel. The restaurant, I thought, was loud, but not in a bad way. It gave off the feeling of friendliness, a family sort of feeling. There was laughing and…Read More
In the background there were men blowing on exotic instruments, giving the ambience a wonderfully authentic feel. The restaurant, I thought, was loud, but not in a bad way. It gave off the feeling of friendliness, a family sort of feeling. There was laughing and oooing and aaaing at the wonderful cuisine. At the end I was a bit disappointed when the waiter was rude when I asked for him not to take a Coke bottle that had Arabic letters on it because I was going to keep it. He at first acted like I was crazy, then said, "Well, you will have to pay me." I said, "I don't think so. I payed for this Coke. I am NOT paying to keep the bottle it was brought in." I guess he mistook me for a "dumb tourist." Don't fall for any subtle little traps like that. All in all, though, it's a must-see when in Morocco. Close