During our trip to southern Spain several years ago, we made a point of making our way across the Strait of Gibraltar to visit Tangiers, Morocco. We took the high speed ferry from Tarifa (near Gibraltar) to the port of Tangiers, where we were met by our guides to start what would be a truly memorable day and definitely one of the highlights of our entire trip. Tangiers is a unique African city as it has been the doorway to Europe for centuries and therefore has a varied population, although it is still mostly Muslim.
We started our day by visiting a neighborhood market, which was extremely busy with locals buying a variety of fresh foods. It is hard to describe the market in Tangiers other than to say that the colors and aromas overtake you at every turn. There are merchants with spices piled to the ceiling, olives of every possible variety, exotic fruit, butchers with meat on display, and every variety of fish imaginable caught fresh from the Mediterranean Ocean. As we walked among the merchants, we were given samples of olives, dates, candy, and more. It was truly a magical experience. After leaving the market, we were off to the Kasbah or Medina, the fortress and oldest part of the city.
Walking the streets of the Kasbah was like walking back in time. The cobblestone streets and grand arches led to a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean. It is off the coast of Tangiers where the Mediterranean Ocean and Atlantic Ocean meet. Before we left the Medina, we were treated to our own private performance by a snake charmer. Having seen snake charmers on TV and movies, we weren’t quite sure what to expect, but it turned out to be fascinating as the charmer played his flute and waived his hand in the face of the King Cobra. We weren’t, however, prepared for what came next as they wrapped a live snake, not a King Cobra fortunately, across our shoulders so that we could take some pictures.
From there, we left the city and headed down the coast where we enjoyed gorgeous views of the Atlantic Ocean and a nearby lighthouse. After a short time, we stopped to ride camels on the shore of the Atlantic. It was a little touristy, but at the same time, how many people get to say that they’ve ridden camels on the beach. From there we visited the pre-historic Caves of Hercules, which is a beautiful geological attraction. It is famous because it has an opening in the shape of Africa to looks out onto the ocean.
Once we got back to Tangiers, it was time for a late lunch, which was good because we had definitely worked up an appetite. We had quite the meal in a tiny, family owned, restaurant, that was authentic Moroccan chicken served in a tagine with hot tea. The food was incredible and the family that served us couldn’t have been any nicer. After lunch, we were taken to the shops of some local artisans with the hope that we’d buy some authentic Moroccan products. We visited a spice shop where we did purchase some saffron, cumin, and marjoram at prices you could never find in the States. At the carpet weaver’s shop, carpets of every description were laid at our feet as we enjoyed some more tea, but as tempted as we were, we decided not to buy one.
Finally, we took the ferry back to Spain and our wonderful day in Morocco came to an end. Although we hope to return to Morocco and spend more than just a day, we were very happy with the day that we did spend there.