It has been a year since our one-of-a-kind trip to the African continent! No way!! It was still in a pre-COVID world when we took a ferry through the rough mixture of Mediterranean and Atlantic waters dividing Europe and Africa and got to the other side. We were very excited to embark on this adventure to explore, just a little bit, of the unknown (for us) world of Morocco. We are very happy to have taken that opportunity to go there, as crossing any borders has become more complicated than ever before.
We had been tempted for quite some time to go there, especially when admiring the beautiful Atlas Mountains visible on a clear day from the Spanish coast. It is hard to believe that what divides the two countries (and two continents) is only 17 km or 45-minute ferry trip. This short distance led us to a starkly different, but unique in its beauty world of Morocco.
First stop, Tanger
I must admit, I was not sure what to expect when we landed there. I had heard many people talk about how careful you should be in Morocco and that it might not be the best idea to bring your kids with you due to safety issues. Not true at all! Marroqui people are the most hospitable people that we have ever met during our journeys. They love children!!
Not once had we witnessed anything that would be even close to a dangerous situation. Even in a big city like Tanger. Yes, you do get to interact with a lot with people who offer you a taxi or want to sell something. This, however, is something cultural and never aggressive (in our experience).
I found it fascinating when I learned that Tanger has inspired so many filmmakers, poets, writers and all sorts of artists. It wass only when we got there, I understood that its architecture and history create a unique scenery. Tanger used to be an international and cosmopolitan space (governed by three countries back in 1920s on) where many people sought refuge in. The feeling of being welcomed there is very prevalent, especially that people speak many languages and always find a way to communicate.
The city was quite big and certainly busy. Luckily, we did not have to navigate it with a car. Not advisable. We started by exploring the immediate neighborhood of our hotel (Hotel Royal) and we got lost very quickly. That counted as an adventure in itself.
Later we realized that we walked by some important sights without even looking for them, like the Gran Teatro Cervantes or Grand Socco, where we sat down for a mint tea just in front of Rif Cinema. This is where the street become narrow and medina begins, the oldest part of the city. Entering through its decorative gates brings you back in time. You find yourself navigating very narrow streets filled with street vendors, little shops and local restaurants.
Best thing you can to is just to walk and stumble upon mosques, fountains or food places. When in doubt, just walk uphill, that were the kasbah is, the old fortificated center of power in the old days.
The locals are also extremely helpful and offer directions to the lost tourists. Once we’ve managed to climb all the way to kasbah and we couldn’t help but look lost, a teenage boy approached us and offered to guide us through kasbah. It is up to you to tip him as there is not a set price for that. It does not hurt your pocket much and the added value is that you get to interact and learn from the locals… and maybe even help with local economic development.
Ferry and dirhams (MAD)
There are several ferry routs you can take. We took a ferry from Tarifa, Spain. Better to have a concrete return date in mind if you consider buying a return ticket rather than buying an open ticket. This way you avoid confusion on your way back.
On a very windy day a ferry might not be able to cross the channel. No worries though, Tarifa also has a lot to offer, just in case you need to stay there longer. It is very difficult to get dirhams in Spain (the local currency in Morocco). Don’t kill yourself trying to find it, as the best way is just to get it upon arrival. Once you leave the port building in Tanger, there are several booths that offer currency exchange, just use one of them. The rates are very decent and they don’t cheat! It is all legit.
Be ready to haggle your way through each and every step of the way when you buy something. It’s an artform and it is just the way the things are there. No need to be afraid or upset about it. Vendors are usually pleasant and it is not expensive in the end. It is pretty amazing that they can negotiate in French, English or even German!
Taxis will take you everywhere. There are two different types of taxis. The green ones (smaller cars) can only take up to 3 people. Also, the driver would stop to take different people on the way. The grand taxis (yellowish) take 4 people or more. They cost more too. All prices are negotiable though. Some drivers would offer you daily tours within the city or taking you to other cities.
Tanger has the big red hop on a hop off bus too!! This is the most cost-efficient way to sightsee, as you have an option to buy 48-hour ticket and the tours are not only within the town, but the red bus also takes you to the Hercules caves at the seaside outside of Tangier, at the Cape Spartel, where the Medditerean connects with the Atlantic Ocean. It is very affordable and really worth it and fun for kids to be in the open rooftop!
If you want to travel to other cities by bus, as an alternative to taking a taxi, you can take one of the CTM buses. It seems to be the main, privately run bus company that operates between the main cities in Morocco (Chefchauen, Casablanca, Fez, Rabat). The main station is located 5km away from the center and the only way to get there is by a taxi.
We had a wonderful experience eating in local restaurants!! As we are everything-eaters, we have no allergies and just love to experiment, we would be already satisfied when we smelled the food. Best to go to the local places, not to fancy restaurants catering exclusively to tourists.
The sole thought of tagine (beef, lamb or chicken-based stew slow cooked in a clay cooking pot with a conical lid) or couscous served with soft veggies and plums or cooked raisins, makes me so hungry!! We had literally only delicious culinary experiences there! None of us had any stomach problems during our week-long escapade there. Drink only bottled water of course!
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BIG SMILE! 😊