Travel tips, hotels, food, sightseeing in Tangier
Tangier (طنجة) is a city in north Morocco.
Tangier Boukhalef Souahel Airport (TNG) is located 12km (7.5 miles) from the city (travel time about 20 minutes). Taxi 100 Dh (10€) to Tangier (150 Dh (15€) at night). At present only Royal Air Maroc, British Airways, Iberia and Regional Airlines fly here but it is rumoured that Ryanair will fly here next year. Coming in by plane is the easiest and hassle free way of coming to Tangier. There are no touts at the airport and the prices of the taxis are more or less fixed.
ONCF opened a new train station, Tanger Ville, in 2003, which is now the end of the line. While it's closer to the city center than Tanger Morora, the original end-of-the-line, it's still quite a long walk so take a petit taxi for 15dhs or so.
Europe and North America (New York and Montreal) serve Morocco Rail The country has an excellent railway system with 1,893km (1,176mi) of track and a fine intercity passenger service utilizing 669,637 passenger cars. Overnight train services running throughout Europe can connect with Morocco. Most of the time, non stop trains are fine but those which are not direct sometimes make unscheduled stops enroute but do not panic as you will reach your destination eventually.
When Travelling overnight by train it is usually cheaper to buy a couchette ticket than a first class ticket and much more comfortable.
When coming into Tangier by car, be careful of hustlers on motorbikes who will ride alongside you and attempt all manner of dodginess.
Coming by car can be a daunting process especially if you are new to Morocco. You have to complete a temporary import form for the Customs, the "Douane". The Police and the Customs will both search your car - often not together so you need to be patient. Things have improved considerably for tourists and you are not likely to be bothered too much but you will have to go through all the formalities of bringing your car into Morocco like everone else. You can only bring your car in for 6 months in any one year. You are not allowed to leave it in Morocco unless you are prepared to pay the tax for the car which can be upto three times the actual cost of the car. This applies even if your car breaks down or is written off. If you do not have insurance from your home country, then local insurance can be purchased at small insurance booths situated at the port. The insurance companies are reasonably reputable and will pay out if you have an accident. Note that this insurance policy has limitations and you are likely to have much more comprehensive cover from insurers from your own country. Most European insurers will cover Morocco and many include it under their standard level of European cover.
Tangier has two long distance bus stations. The first, at the CTM offices near the port, is the arrival point of most CTM buses. Some other CTM buses, and those from other companies, arrive at the station on Place Jamia el-Arabia.
C.T.M. - Place d’ Espagne. Gare routière - Tel. 00212 (0)39 931 172 - CTM website
TRAMESA , 29. Av. Youssef Ben Tacheffine. Tel. 00212 (0)39 943 348 - Tramesa website
The port is located beside the medina, and a few hundred metres from the ville nouvelle. Although the government has been partially successful in reducing the number of touts, money changers, taxi drivers and faux guides hassling people arriving by boat, expect to be mobbed. Look like you know where you're going, politely refuse any offers of help or ignore the "guides" completely, or if you really feel like you need to escape jump in a taxi to escape the throng; just make sure that the taxi driver is no worse than the mob you are trying to escape. The taxi rank is inside the port area - you are likely to be mobbed by requests from many drivers. There is no queing system - just take the taxi which you have agreed a fare with and are comfortable with. The blue
colored petit taxis are substantially cheaper and used more by locals and are preferable to the cream
colored grand taxis who are mostly unmetered.
Walking is perhaps the best way to see the relatively compact Tangier. Petit taxis are common, but if it is
un-metered make sure you agree on a price first. Tangier is easy to very navigate around; the two main roads are
Boulevard Mohamed V which runs from near the Medina through the ville nouvelle and Boulevard Mohamed VI (formerly Ave des FAR) which runs along from the beachfront from the port to Malabata. The Medina area is a complex array of alleyways some of which can only be accessed on foot. Mohamed V has a whole range of clothes shops, pharmacies and cafes as well as Hotel Flandria, Hotel Rembrandt. Hotel Minzah lies just off this road. Mohamed VI runs along the beach front where you will find numerous Hotels (Rif, Ramada, Sherezade, Solazure, Tariq, Movenpick), Bars, Discos, Restaurants and Cafes. Most hostels are situated on the roads heading uphill near the port area.
Most locals in Tangier will be unfamiliar with what we call the "ville nouvelle". To help with agreeing fares and generally with navigating using taxis - the central main
thoroughfare is simply known as the "Boulevard", the beach area as "Playa", the port as "Marsa", the medina as "souk barra", the hilly area to the west of Tangier with the Golf Course and Race Track as "California", the residential area heading towards the main road to Tetouan as "Idrissia", the thieves market as "Casa Barata".
Take a simple walk along the beach (Ave Mohamed VI) to enjoy what the city is famed for.
Teatro Cervantes, rue Salah Eddine et Ayoubi. Closed and falling to pieces but take a photo from outside the gates as you pass by on the way up to the Grand Socco.
The American Legation, 8, Rue America. The Tangier American Legation Museum (TALM), a thriving cultural center, museum, conference center and library in the heart of the old medina in Tangier, is housed in the only historic landmark of the
United States located abroad. The museum exhibits a large collection of art and historical items. It also houses the Paul Bowles Museum dedicated to the writer and composer who lived most of his adult life in Tangier.
Musée d'Art Contemporain de la Ville de Tangier
People watching on the Terrasse des Paresseux, boulevard Pasteur.
Most brass work is made in other towns but is available here. Leather goods are also available. Stay away from the tourist traps and you may find the price quite agreeable. There is a infamous market in Tangier called "casa barata" (the house of cheap things) - there are bargains to be had here but be wary of forgeries and stolen goods (these are sold along vegetables, electronics, clothing, shoes, spices, carpets, ironmongery and everything else one can think of!). There are other markets notably the souk in the medina (mainly vegetables, clothes and tourist items) and in Ben Mekada (vegetables). The latter does not cater for tourists at all and is known as one of the "rough spots" of tangier and back in the 1980's there were bread riots here.
There are many places in Tangier to drink - people have their own favorite haunts. Much depends on the current owner who tends to give the place a certain ambiance. Favorite bars/discos with foreign (and local) clientele include Casa Pepe, Sable D'or, Morocco Palace, Marco Polo (popular with truck drivers) and hotel bars such as Ramada and El Minzah.
You could opt for a coffee instead - there are no shortage of cafes; some of which are the best in the country. Some have amazing views (cafe Hafa), some good coffee, some are popular (cafe Tropicana, cafe Celine Dion), some with music (cafe in the Dawliz complex), some have good cakes (cafe Oslo), some are places to relax after a hard day shopping (cafe Madam Porte, cafe Vienna), and some are just plain sleazy - the choice is yours.
Fresh fruit juices are sold by street vendors during the summer months. The cafes also serve fresh juices and often have what is called a panache - a mix of fruit juices often with milk, apple and almond - try it - its delicious.
Hotel Continental 36 Rue Dar El Baroud Tel: 00 212 12 00 90 84 This hotel, situated in the medina and within easy reach of the port, is very much in the 'former glory' category, with past guests including Degas, Churchill, Kerouac and friends. Definitely spend extra for a nicer room if given the opportunity, it is not a lot extra and the best rooms were absolutely palatial. Get one facing the port if you can. It has a really nice terrace out front where you can enjoy mint tea with spectacular views of the harbour. Make sure not to confuse it with the Intercontinental which is a more modern hotel and not as central. The price of 365-420 dirhams for a double translates to around €33-38.
Hotel Sherezade, Ave des FAR - next to Ramada. On the beachfront, clean and comfortable, cheap and cheerful (30-35€)
Hotel Solazure, Ave des FAR - On the beachfront but caters mostly to package tourists. Poor service and not particularly clean or cheap. About 50-60€
Hotel Ramada on beachfront - excellent 4 star hotel. Modern and reasonably priced with sea facing rooms (about 80-100€). Good service.
Hotel Movenpick in Malabata - Expensive but brand new modern luxury hotel with an adjoining Casino. Typical 5 star luxury hotel - the best in Tangier (about 160-180€)
Hotel El Minzah near the Medina - centrally located. Decor is traditional Moroccan. This most famous 5 star hotel in Tangier.
Hotel Omnia el Puerto opposite Ramada - not on the beachfront but is clean and comfortable 4 star hotel. Inconsistent service (about 70-80€)
Hotel Intercontinental (not the same as the international chain - and like all pretenders; a cheap imitation). This is situated in a remote suburb of Tangier where you have to take a Taxi to go anywhere. About 40-50€
Hotel Le Mirage in Cap Spartel. This is a 5 star hotel on the Atlantic coast. It is a little far from Tangier and ideal secluded spot.
Hotel Robinson in Cap Spartel. A comfortable hotel which is very busy in the summer but is quite a distance from Tangier.
Hotel Rif on Ave Mohamed VI (on beachfront). Recently renovated and reopened. 5 star Hotel. One famous former guest was Winston Churchill and more recently.
Villa Josephine on the Old Mountain is an 11-room luxury residence with fine dining, bar and swimming pool. It is located away from the crowds downtown.
Generally, Tangier is a very safe city compared with many places in Europe. The only trouble you may encounter is the persistent touts which you should ignore or the con-men ready to fleece you. There are policemen everywhere and you will probably feel safer than at home.
You can buy train, bus and ferry tickets at the stations and ports listed above, although you may find it easier to purchase ferry tickets from travel agents rather than face the gauntlet of touts at the port. You can also flag grand taxis at the major bus stations and ferry port.
In ancient times, Tangier was a prize sought after by many, from the Phoenicians, who built a trading post there, to the Romans who founded the town of Tingis. After continuous domination by the Vandals in the 5th century and the Byzantines in the 6th century, the town was long the target of Arab thirst for expansion. Tangier, melting pot of civilizations where Mediterranean meets Atlantic, boasts a splendid bay at the foot of lush green hills. Bewitched by its magical setting, many western celebrities come to holiday here. Tangier, first or last city in the continent, is a stopover not to be missed, affording a first taste of the legend of Morocco.
Attractions in Tangier
Bay of Tangier
Stretching from Cap Malabata to the old town, the Bay of Tangier is one of the most beautiful bays in the Mediterranean. Due to its geographical position, it represents a valuable heritage and considerable wealth in tourism. It is currently experiencing spectacular boom in tourism development with several hotel complexes and seaside resorts being constructed. It has a number of attractive beaches, ready to host all kinds of water sports.
Located in Quartier Marshan a few hundred metres from the Forbes Museum, Café Hafa, clinging to the hillside, amidst a profusion of flowers and shrubs, offers an enchanting view over Tangier Bay and is a haven of peace and relaxation.
The Grand Socco
The Grand Socco is a huge permanent market located at the entrance to the medina. The square was renamed Place du 9 Avril 1947 to commemorate the historic speech given by Sultan Mohamed V. Due to its location between the old town and the new, and the bustle of commercial activity to be found there, the square is one of the most frequented parts of the city, being at its liveliest on Sundays, a market day for local farmers who come to sell their fruit and poultry there. At one end of the square stands the Sidi Bou Abid Mosque with its earthenware-tiled minaret dating back to 1917.
The square is known above all for its Grand Café de Paris, one of the smartest cafés in the city. Jean Genet, who lodged at the nearby Minzah Hotel, used to go there or, if he attracted too much unwanted attention, would take refuge in the Café de France, just opposite. The square, which also houses the French consulate in its lush green gardens, extends as far as Boulevard Mohammed V, which leads to the western outskirts of the city, where new buildings continue to spring up at an amazing rate.
The Big Mosque
Standing on the site of an ancient Roman Temple, the original mosque was transformed into a church by the Portuguese but, after his expulsion of the English in 1684, Moulay Ismail built a second mosque here, which was enlarged by Moulay Slimane in 1815. On 11 April 1947, King Mohammed V led prayers here, after delivering his historic speech in the El Mendoubia Gardens.
Outside the new town, on the slopes of the Montagne, Jbel el Kébir, lies the residential district. Surrounded by eucalyptus and umbrella pine trees, sumptuous mansions stand side-by-side with opulent Hispano-Moorish style villas, mostly built by the foreigners who lived there when Tangiers was an international zone.
According to historians, the area was once forestland where the Moors sought refuge during their struggles against the Portuguese, and then against the English who occupied the town in the 17th century.
The Small Socco
From the end of the 19th century, the Small Socco’s square was the true heart of the city, being both a business centre and a place for relaxation, with its little cafés and old hotels, among which is the famous Fuentes Hotel.
At the end of the 17th century, to celebrate the departure of the English, Sultan Moulay Ismail constructed a great mosque there on the ruins of a former Portuguese cathedral.
The Square of the Kasbah
Offering a panoramic view of the bay and the port, the Kasbah opens onto a narrow street lined with houses lavishly decorated with multicoloured shutters and balconies, and sculpted cherubs. At its centre is the Mechouar, where the Pashas used to hold public audiences, its architecture dating from the time of Moulay Ismail. Here also stand the Mosque of the Kasbah and Dar El Makhzen, now a museum, and, on the south side, close to Bab El Assa, the former courthouse of Dar Ech
The boulevard is the main street of modern Tangier. Running from Place de France, a vast esplanade overlooking the port, the medina, and the nearby Straits of Gibraltar, it is of European architecture, some of which dates from the start of the 20th century. It is lined with banks and luxury boutiques, and here also is the famous and palatial El Minzah Hotel.
Mohammed V Mosque
The mosque, an excellent starting point for a tour of Tangier, is dedicated to the memory of King Mohammed V, who delivered the first speech proclaiming the country’s independence from the French and demanding reunification of Tangier with Morocco. At the time, this pushed the majority of foreign investors into leaving the international city, which led to a slowdown of industrial and commercial activity in the Kingdom.
Marshan is a residential district built between the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Its fine buildings, palaces and lush gardens call to mind the great viziers and Ouezzane and Mendoub chorfa who lived there at the end of 19th century.
To the northwest of the town, stretches the famous Medoubia Park containing the residence and offices of the Mendoub who was the Sultan’s permanent representative on the international commission. In this park, you can see old cannons probably dating back to the 17th century taken from various Mediterranean fleets.
The Mosque of The Kasbah
From the Mechouar, the Kasbah’s main square, rises the octagonal minaret of its mosque, adorned with multi-colored zellij. This is one of the most beautiful and best-known mosques in the city, after the Great Mosque and Mohamed V Mosque. Nearby stands the magnificent Dar El Makhzen, currently in use as a museum housing fine collections of Moroccan handicrafts and relics from
The Seaport of Tangier
As well as being the scene of fishing and sailing activity, the port handles the daily flow of passengers and goods from Morocco to Algeciras in Spain and to Gibraltar – a two-way traffic which has boomed in recent years. In the future, the port will be referred to as Tanger-Ville to distinguish it from Tanger-Atlantique, which will be exclusively reserved for industrial activity and container traffic.
The Surroundings of Tangier
Formerly called Cape Ampelusium (Cape of Vines), Cap Spartel looks down over the sea, its heights benefiting from relatively high levels of rainfall and humidity which favour the growth of vegetation. On its promontory stands a lighthouse built in 1865 by order of Sultan Mohammed Ben Abdel Rahman at the behest of foreign diplomats, and housing a collection of old framed photographs depicting lighthouses of the world.
Founded in the 12th century, Larache is a small fishing port on the Atlantic coast, 70 km south of Tangier. It lies on the estuary of the river Loukkos, whose meandering offshoots form a sound, enclosing stretches of salt
marsh. The town, whose two hundred thousand inhabitants live mainly off fishing, canning and a little tourism, is also an administrative
center for the region. Due to the successive influence of Spanish and Arab occupations, its architecture varies from one district to another. The old town is typically Arab, while the new town is Andalusian in style.
Located on the Atlantic coast, Asilah is a town with a turbulent past, target for the successive attentions of Phoenicians, Normans, Portuguese and Spanish, who took turns at occupying it until the end of the 17th century when Moulay Ismail took possession of the city. Its stone-lined alleyways and white houses are imbued with calm and
tranquility. The ramparts of the old town shelter the mysterious Raissouli Palace and its alleyways lead down to one of the coastline’s most beautiful beaches, where a sailing port is currently under construction. In the summer, the town turns itself into a seaside resort, attracting hosts of tourists with its delightful promenade, its tempting display of handicrafts and its excellent camping facilities.
Founded in 1307 by the Merinid Sultan Abou Thabit, the white city of Tetouan nestles on Mount Dersa, with a panoramic view over the fertile river Martil valley, the sea and the foothills of the Rif Mountains. Both Arab and Spanish, Tetouan is a city of mixed race where Moorish and Andalusian styles blend harmoniously into a single architecture. Although the Spanish language is heard less and less on its streets, Andalusian music is still omnipresent. With its green and white houses, its crenellated ramparts built by Moulay Ismail, and its shady little squares, the medina is one of the most delightful spots in the Kingdom.
The delightful village of Chefchaouen - also called Chaouen - overlooks the Ras El-Ma spring, its lime-washed walls soaking up the blazing sunlight.
Nothing could be better than a stroll through the twisting alleyways of the medina or to watch the locals stitching babouches (slippers) and djellabas, at the foot of the Kasbah, in the doorways of houses dating back to its foundation in 1471.
Further to the east, perched atop a cliff rising 70 metres above the Mediterranean, Al Hoceima is a town whose existence goes back to the first half of the 9th century. The city was an object of desire for European seafarers, starting with the British who tried to set up a trading post there in 1661, then the French, who wanted to establish a base there in 1666, only to be thwarted by the Spanish, who succeeded in imposing their presence in 1673. In 1926, after suppression of the Rif rebellion, Al Hoceima bay became the scene of concerted tourist development, with numerous hotels and residences being built. Its beaches, coves, deep rocky inlets and promontories constitute one of the most beautiful natural settings on the Mediterranean Coast.
It is said to be the pearl of Eastern Morocco with its fine sandy beach stretching over ten
kilometers and its magnificent bay ideally suited to yachting. Historically speaking, the town has an extremely beautiful Kasbah, dating from the 19th century and a fortress built during the reign of Moulay Ismaïl. Saîdia makes an excellent departure point for trips into the mountains of Béni Snassen or to the Zegzel caves.
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