Reflections of Tangier – A Mini Adventure in Morocco

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It’s Tangier, not Tangiers with an ‘s’! How did I not know that? It just seems natural I guess but everyone I meet pronounces it with an ‘s’ on the end as well so I don’t feel too bad.

This trip was a long shot for my Wife and I. We had 5 days free and it was during British School holidays so finding a cheap trip abroad wasn’t easy. We had both wanted to visit Morocco but most destinations in the country were expensive as was to be expected at this time of year. The only option we could find within our price range was Tangier.

As soon as we saw it I think we both had these grand visions of French and British Colonial buildings and romantic 1940’s style hotels. The reality wasn’t far from our expectations.

The 1940’s charm is still there if your prepared to search for it. Many of the hotels in the old Town maintain the allure but sadly Tangier is a big busy city and in many ways, it feels as if it hasn’t progressed since the 40’s. When your hotel is as deep in the heart of the city as ours was its hard not to be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of homeless people begging on the streets. There were many north African immigrants but there was also a large amount of local people begging with their children. In just one block I saw 3 different blind people begging, 5 women with babies or young children and 2 other seriously disabled people, one man had bleeding open sores on his bare feet which were difficult to look at. I was saddened when I saw someone drop a coin into the tin can of a blind man who in turn held out a pack of tissues as thanks. The kind Samaritan hadn’t stopped for thanks so the blind man was left holding the pack of tissues until he realised they were unwanted. It was a very simple transaction but I found it heart wrenching.

We stayed at the El Minzah Hotel in the heart of the Old Town.

The hotel was fantastic, it manages to maintain modern standards without losing its original charm. The walls are adorned with black and white photos of famous guests from Humphrey Bogart to Tom Hiddleston.

Less than a two-minute walk from the Hotel is the bustling Medina markets set in the narrow alleyways accessed by elaborate white stone archways. As is to be expect with Moroccan markets, you can buy everything from fresh dates and spices to souvenirs and clothing. The hotel also has a famous Hamman housed within a brand new leisure block complete with gym and indoor swimming pool.

It took me two days to get my bearings in the Town with its winding alleyways and steep roads. Beyond the medina is the Kasbah area which leads up to the old fort. As you wind your way higher up through the shopping streets the blend seamlessly into residential areas. Each alleyway and home is painted in bright colours depicting scenes from their histories and culture. It’s an amazing sight, probably the best in Tangier but to get there you need what I like to call a ‘Courage shovel.’ At least on the first day or so when everything is so hectic and you haven’t acclimatised.

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On your approach to the residential areas the streets narrow as shops start to disappear and everyone on the street tells you that everything is ‘closed that way’ and try to usher you back towards the markets. (We later found out that what they mean by ‘closed’ was that there are dead ends ahead) As the streets narrow they also get darker and steeper. For a while it feels like there is nothing ahead and you’ve got lost. Dark thoughts were running though my head at one point and I started to think that perhaps we had strayed into an area we shouldn’t be but then I realised how quiet and peaceful it had become away from the hustle and bustle.  Once you find yourself in the brightly decorated residential areas it’s all worth it and the residents are friendly you don’t feel like your intruding at all.

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There are a few good restaurants in the city, all are within walking distance and can be found on TripAdvisor.  For me the best experience of the trip was waiting with the locals in one of the main squares for the sunset prayer and sitting down to eat all at the same time. Without a doubt, the best food I ate whilst there was simple street food and the soft puffy pitta breads are to die for.

If your set on finding restaurants to eat at try these; We ate at both and enjoyed great food and hospitality.

  • El Korsan – One of three restaurants at the Hotel Minzah, 85, Rue De La Liberte. Website
  • Rif Kebdani –  Rue Dar Baroud, in the heart of the Medina, Website
  • El Tangerino – 186 Boulevard Mohamd V, Corniche de Tanger Website

If your planning to visit Tangier I would definatley recommend it. There are some amazing sights to see amongst the busy city and the height of the city of the coastline provides stunning huge vistas at sunset.

As with many coastal areas there is a lot of constructuon going on and plans are afoot to develop Tangier into yet another package holiday location so get there soon if you wish to experience the best of this historic city.

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