“This is the future of Morocco,” I hear in the van that transports me when I arrive in Tangier. A one-hour road connects Tétouan with one of the largest port cities in Morocco, and I already see significant signs of modernity.
The train and the long railway line, the heavy traffic, the trucks on the road, the big hotel chains, the Marina that announces a considerable construction. “If this is the future of Morocco, I want to get stuck in the past!”, I think to myself.
But there are more in Tangier than we realize at first glance.
Modernity crosses tradition in the streets of Tangier
I was in town only for half a day, with a return flight to Portugal scheduled for 5 am the next day. By far I had time to visit all that this city in the north of Morocco has to offer.
After the bags left at the hotel, I began to cross the streets of the
Again I was overwhelmed with shops filled with leather, fabrics, and souvenirs that conquer all those who visit the city, especially those who cross the strait coming from the European continent in search of the Moroccan charm.
Arriving at the fortress, by the Bab Haha entrance, the view is all that Tangier represents: a gateway to the African continent. Across the waters of the Strait of Gibraltar, Spain lurks. Two ancient countries that crossed history sometime in pass.
I continue towards one of the most popular terraces in the city: Cafe Hafa. Following the coastline, I find however another stop: the Phoenician tombs.
At first glance, it’s just a clump of stones, with holes dug in it, but I’m well aware that their historical value is enormous. Despite this, few go there to see the graves. This place is, in fact, one of the most sought by locals to enjoy the late afternoon, with their eyes set on the sea.
“Peppermint tea, please.”
The Cafe Hafa is just a few meters from the Phoenician tombs, and I quickly realize why it is famous. It’s the perfect place to unwind alone or with friends.
The property stretches out onto a hillside by the sea, and the various floors are filled with tables and chairs, with staff running upstairs and downstairs with endless cups of peppermint tea.
Around here men and women mingle at the tables. We see groups sharing conversation and laughter. The sex segregation in public spaces that we find so often in places of a Muslim nature goes unnoticed here.
But it’s funny… on this journey through the north of Morocco, having also passed through Fez, Chefchaouen, and Tetouan, it was in Tangier that I first saw women in
I return to the medina, this time in search of the Grand Socco (Big Souk).
The 9 du Avril 1947 square — as it is officially called — is one of the most central places in the city and here we can find the Sidi Bou Abib Mosque, the La Mendoubia Gardens, the Cinema Rif and the medina gate Bab Fass.
I feel that I’m just touching the various Tangiers sights, when, unfortunately, it’s time to return to the hotel. In my way, I pass by the American Legation Institute.
This building has special significance since Morocco was the first country to recognize the United States as an independent nation in 1777, and this was the first American property abroad. Unfortunately, there was no time to visit the museum. Maybe on a next trip.
It was four full days in the north of Morocco, and I ended up one step closer to home, to Portugal.
Many dismiss Tangier in a visit to the country. I, myself had that feeling when I started to enter the city, coming from a more traditional Morocco. But this place is indeed the future, and no one stops the future! We accept it, but never losing sight of the history that took us where we are today. That is the feeling in Tangier.
Places to visit in Tangier
- – Kasbah and the view of the port and Europe’s mainland
- Phoenician tombs
- Cafe Hafa
- Grand Socco
- Institute of American Legation of Tangier and its museum
- Tomb of Ibn Battuta (I didn’t go there, but this is the last resting place of Ibn Battuta, the famous traveler of the 14th century – bigger than Marco Polo!)
Sleep / Dinner
Palais Zahia & Spa
This hotel is super exquisite and is a high starting point to discover the medina, since it has a privileged location. The atrium and rooms have Moroccan decor, as it should be, and the restaurant’s menu is quite varied. The staff is kind and even arranged breakfast to take away once I checked out at 5 am. Be sure to climb to the terrace for a view over Tangier.
How about you? Have you ever step foot in Tangier? What did you think of the city? Never been there, but was curious? Share your opinion in the comments box below.
Get to know Tangier
I traveled at the invitation of the Moroccan Tourism Office to visit some of the main cities in the north of the country. However, all the descriptions and opinions reported in this article are independent and the result of my own experience.