Tangier. Words cannot describe the experience here, but I will do my best.
We left Sevilla early Monday morning to begin our trek to Morocco. We were recommended to try a ride sharing service called BlaBla Car (to avoid an unnecessarily long and more expensive bus journey). It worked out perfectly, and we got from Sevilla to the port city of Algeciras in 2 hours for less than 25 €. From there, we purchased our ferry tickets to Tangier, but had to take another bus ride to the sleepy Spanish surfing town of Tarifa, where we caught our ferry crossing the Strait of Gibraltar to Africa.
As we crossed the sea, we watched from the deck as Spain vanished into the background and looked on to see Morocco emerging from the fog. Once on the ground in Tangier, we had the unpleasant realization that we had no cellphone network, and thus had no way of communicating with our AirBnB hosts or using Google Maps to guide us to our Tangier home. Reluctantly, we chose one of the many taxis waiting at the port and began our first of many Morocco adventures. After agreeing on a destination (Cinema Rif in the Grand Socco), and a price, we left the port in our taxi and began the process of repeatedly telling our driver that we did not want to be taken 20 miles from the city to a beach – we only wanted to go to Cinema Rif. After 5 failed attempts to persuade us, he finally dropped us at our destination where luckily the husband of our AirBnB host, Mostafa, was still waiting for us.
The scene in the Grand Socco was unlike anything we had ever witnessed. People and cars interspersed in the streets with no indication of where the sidewalk and road began or ended. Moroccans selling everything from vegetables to motorcycle parts, shady characters beckoning you to follow them into the Medina (the old, walled area of the city where there are no roads only alleys and no cars can enter). We had officially arrived in Morocco. Our host Mostafa began escorting us to his home, which was deep in the Medina, weaving through the maze of alleys and shops explaining to us that in Tangier, we will be urged by almost everyone to buy things or approached by faux guides who want to lead your where you need to go but for a price. He told us we must ignore them and not to be afraid to say “NO” firmly. After a dizzying series of lefts, rights, and diagonals through the maze, we arrived at his home. It was unassuming from the outside, but upon entering we were welcomed into a beautiful atrium with a spiral staircase leading to our room on the third floor. Our room had a private terrace from which we could see the entire city down to the port. It was spectacular.
Mostafa’s wife, Monika, gave us a tour of their home and showed us maps and useful information about Tangier and things to do and see. We studied this info diligently and then headed back out to explore the city. Our first afternoon/evening there was spent trying to find what we deemed to be an acceptable place to eat. There is food everywhere, but not everything looks to be a place where one would want eat or possibly even be allowed to eat. There are numerous cafes that are filled with only men, smoking and drinking mint tea. Our hosts later informed us that in many of the cafes, there are two floors the first being designated for men, and the second for women or families. We finally settled into a cafe and drank our first mint teas of the trip (there were many more to come, it’s everywhere and it’s awesome!). We then found a quick bite to eat and headed back to our room for a much needed long sleep.
On day 2 in Morocco, we awoke to our hosts making us a fantastic breakfast, complete with some traditional Moroccan flat breads, honey, jam, and tea. The weather was beautiful and we were able to eat outside with another guest at the house who was exploring Morocco before beginning the Camino de Santiago. Coincidentally, he was from Boston, so we chatted and enjoyed breakfast with him before he headed out on his journey. After breakfast we decided to immerse ourselves in Moroccan culture by signing up for a cooking class where we learned to make and serve traditional mint tea, bake bread from scratch and visit the community oven (that was amazing, just a giant oven that’s ~100 years old and anyone in the neighborhood can pay and bake bread or meats), and prepare a traditional Moroccan Couscous. This cooking class ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences we have had on the trip and we cannot recommend it enough, Blue Door Cuisine. The best part of this class was that our teacher, Maryam who was from Tangier, took us around the neighborhood and walked with us through the spice market in the Medina, showing us great things to eat and which shops had the best goods. The food turned out fantastic, (Lu had the best looking Couscous, but I’m pretty sure mine tasted the best…) and lucky for us we had plenty of leftovers to take home. Later that evening, we trekked to the famous Cafe Hafa, which overlooks the ocean on a huge cliff and sipped mint tea as the sun went down.
Day 3, our last full day in Tangier, had two missions; eat pizza in Morocco and have dinner at the now world-famous Populaire Saveur de Poisson. We had been recommended a pizza place by our cooking instructor so we walked about 2 miles through Tangier only to find that the pizza place was actually a burger place?…and it was closed (I’m sure we got the name wrong). Lu had spotted a pizza joint outside the Medina so we headed back and grabbed the Moroccan version of Margarita pizza (more to come on that in The Weekly Crust!).
Afterward, we explored the Kasbah and its museum and also headed to the American Legation, which is basically the first American public property outside of the United States and now is a museum. This was pretty cool, because neither Lu or I had any idea of the long history between Morocco and the United States, so we definitely recommend checking that out if you’re in Tangier! After a quick rest, we headed to Saveur de Poisson for our final dinner in Morocco. This restaurant has no menu, no indication of prices, and absolutely no fuss from the patrons. It is a 5-course meal; fish soup, chopped fish sautéed with spinach and chile peppers, whole fish pan-fried with fish kebab, strawberries drizzled with honey and pine nuts, and barley with crushed walnuts and honey. You may have guessed but yeah, it’s a fish restaurant and its f***ing fantastic. If you go to Tangier you have to eat there; it is really expensive as far as Tangier goes (200 MAD per person / $20 per person) but it’s well worth it.
After dinner, we took one last long stroll through the Grand Socco and the Medina, soaking up the sights and sounds and retired to our room to get some sleep. We had a long day of traveling ahead of us to get back to Spain.