Morocco: In Tangier we trust
Most travellers to Morocco overlook this small Mediterranean gem with tons of history – but hey, you shouldn’t.
What is it about Tangiers?
I was always seeing my self going to Tangiers but I never thought that I actually would. It was more like looking at old sepia pictures than an actual place. In reality it is a very overlooked destination, part Africa - part Europe, with life bustling on the streets and sea breeze mixed with mint and lemon.
This is an old place by all means, and you can feel this mysterious aura woven in the white washed walls of the Kasbah. Important writers once mixed with opium addicts and spies here. It’s the same city that Paul Bowles, Tangiers’ most beloved author, placed part of his novel Sheltering Skies that later became the famous Bernardo Bertoloucci movie. The same decadent images of the city appear in Only Lovers Left Alive where century old vampires try to find the meaning of existing in the face of Tilda Swinton. There seems to be a mystery surrounding everything and this makes the trip there all the more interesting.
Once a beatnik hangout and a place where all debauchery was allowed, today’s Tangiers is lot more homogenous and typical of a Moroccan city.
If you have time, why not cross the border by boat from one of the Spanish cities of Tarifa or Algeciras – I bet you this is one of these once in a lifetime experiences that teach us how small is our planet.
The medina (old part of the city) is a small and manageable labyrinth of little alleys leading who knows where (never mind finding your way when you can let yourself wander around with no sense of orientation). Eventually you will end up either on the Pettit or the Grand Socco, both are open spaces and meeting points where you will find most of the historic cafés and sights. The Pettit Socco was once a popular hangout for all kinds of illegal behaviour – let’s not go into details. But is nothing like this anymore. The walls of the surrounding buildings have been given a fresh paint and the cafes are full of locals and tourists sipping their mint tea. Once in Grand Socco do not miss a visit to Rif Cinema, a must and a great place to catch a movie.
The main throwaways are Rue De la Liberte and Avenue Pasteur. Wander around the busy streets and take a deep breath while looking at the sea from above. We didn’t mind the smoke so we decided to grab a coffee at Grand Café De Paris – there are reminders of grandiose in the smaller side streets and if you don’t mind some urban grit then this is the place to go look for old cinemas and art deco. Unfortunately, all these amazing buildings are left to rot and apart from the rundown facades there is nothing to indicate their past.
My personal feel about Tangier is that there is a pulse beating in this place and the more people discover it the better
Where to sleep
La Tangerina was the reason we decided to visit Tangiers therefore I would strongly recommend you to stay there as you will struggle to find a more impressive balcony, a more stylish patio and nicer people. Overwhelmingly white and blue, La Tangerina lies in the south west corner of the Kasbah and from the top floors you can relax with a tea while marvelling a the Mediterranean sea
Where to eat
Fish at the Saveur du Poisson, Pastries from the most local-looking bakery you will found in the new town (that might take a few wild guesses), Fresh local pies from the Cinema Rif cantine
What to read
Tangier: A Literary Guide for Travellers by Josh Shoemaker
Where to shop
“Whereas the tourist generally hurries back home at the end of a few weeks or months, the traveler belonging no more to one place than to the next, moves slowly over periods of years, from one part of the earth to another. Indeed, he would have found it difficult to tell, among the many places he had lived, precisely where it was he had felt most at home.”
Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky