Tangier, the gateway of Morocco
Tangier, known also as the gateway of Morocco, dominates the Strait of Gibraltar from high ground. Part of the city faces the Atlantic Ocean and the other faces the milder and calmer Mediterranean Sea.
Tangier has an ancient and rich history. Over the course of the centuries it has been a Phoenician, Carthaginian, Roman, Portuguese Arab, Spanish and British city, and this multicultural influence has made it a place of artistic inspiration. The charm of its streets, among colourful crowds and intensely perfumed markets, and the atmosphere emanating from the old town, exert an irresistible attraction. The old town is scattered with stalls and markets.
The Grande Socco at the entrance to the Medina is the most popular place in the city. “Socco” comes from the Spanish for ‘souk’ or market.
The Grande Socco
However it is only on some days of the week that the Grande Socco is transformed into a large shopping centre where people from all parts of the world gather to do business, and where stalls run by women in traditional coloured costumes sell vegetables and fresh mint.
The old residence of the mendoub (the Sultan’s representative) lies within the Grande Socco. Today it is the seat of the Court, with a splendid garden filled with age-old trees.
The Kasbah, built on the highest point of the city, is divided by the rest of the Medina. The Kasbah Mosque features an octagonal minaret of polychrome majolica. The Sultan’s Palace, Dar El Makhzen, is located here. This superb residence overlooking the sea has marble vaults, cedar wood ceilings and decorations in majolica. It houses the Morocco Museum of Arts and the Museum of Antiquities. The Forbes Museum instead houses a rich collection of lead soldiers (some 115,000), which reinact the great battles of history. The gardens are magnificent and the Hafa café, a perfect place for refreshments, is only 100 metres away, atop a cliff.
In Tangier, in addition to museums, there are also important archaeological sites like the Mzora henge, and the Caves of Hercules.
Is possible to know the culture of Tangier also through its festivals of Andalusi music, an authentic way of encountering the traditions of all the region.
To the South, at the entrance to the old city and a short distance from the large mosque, is the Petit Socco, a small square surrounded by hotels, restaurants and cafes. Here a large mosque can be found, built on the ruins of an old Portuguese cathedral. In the footsteps of famous personalities who have fallen in love with Tangiers, there is nothing better than sipping a mint tea at one of the cafés in the Petit Socco.
Where to sleep in Tangier
Tangier is a welcoming city and offers different possibilities for accommodation.
To find the ideal hotel and the best offers you can do a search for the stars but also for districts or landmarks.
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The Grand Socco is found at the entrance to the Medina. Overlooking the square is the former Mendoub Palace and Mendoubia Gardens, the heart of the historic city with numerous ancient dragon trees.
The Medina is a magical place with characteristic alleyways and market stalls for shopping for craft products such as sheepskin and decorative leather.
The Petit Socco, accessed from Rue Es-Siaghine (Silversmiths’ Road), is a small square with hotels, restaurants and coffee shops. After the Petit Socco lies Rue de la Marine which leads to Bab el Bahr (Gate of the Sea) and two small forts (borjs): the Borj el Mosra is a unique building with giant cannons and affords a wonderful view of the bay. A stop in the local market stalls and famous cafes is a must.
This ancient fortress with bastions dominates the city of Tangier and its medina. It is reached from the Grand Socco along Rue d’Italie and Rue de la Kasbah. The area is filled with old palaces and residences such as the Sultan’s Palace (Dar el Mekhzen) on Place de la Kasbah, home to the Museum of Moroccan Arts. The Dar Ech Chorfa building is also very beautiful and displays the collections of the Museum of Antiquities and Archaeology.
This large eighteenth-century residence, which was restored in 1920, has been a museum since 1956, displaying works that illustrate the history of Tangier from the seventeenth to twentieth centuries. In 1821 this building was presented to the American mission by Sultan Moulay Suliman and is the only US listed building outside national territory.
Café Hafa is in a panoramic position between gardens and terraces with a view over the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and Andalusia.
Since 1920 it has been the perfect place for a mint tea while enjoying the panorama of the sea of Tangier. Supposedly, the Beatles, Bob Marley and Sean Connery have all visited this café.
Cape Spartel and Cape Malabata
These two promontories stand at the entrance to the port of Tangier. Cape Spartel is found on the ocean side and is the ideal place to watch the sunset and to visit the Caves of Hercules. It also features a lighthouse dating back to 1965 and the Perdicaris viewpoint. Cape Malabata, instead, faces the Mediterranean Sea and offers a view over the Straits of Gibraltar. Nearby is the unusual Medieval style Malabata Castle.
The Port of Tangier faces two seas, the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Ships from Europe, fishing boats and other boats arrive here; there are also various commercial business, as well as fishing and leisure activities. It is the focal point of the city, a place to take a stroll and admire the city from the sea.
Royal Golf Club
Designed in 1914 by Cotton and Pennink, it was later remodelled by His Majesty Hassan II, but has retained its British style, with rolling hills, valleys and fairways among cypresses, pines and eucalyptus trees. It is the ideal place for golf lovers, but also for relaxing in nature and observing from afar the white roofs of Tangier.
The town of Larache, sitting at the mouth of the Loukkos River, is 90 kilometres from Tangier.
Its kasbah dates back to 1941 and is characterised by narrow alleyways and arches. The centre of the city features typical Andalusian architecture. From the central square, a pine forest extends to the ocean. Near Larache is an archaeological site with the ruins of Lixus, a Carthaginian and Roman port.
Chefchaouen and Rif
Chefchaouen is a town with winding streets, medieval houses and a well-preserved kasbah in Andalusian style. The town developed at the foot of the Rif mountain range. It is the ideal place for stunning trips, discovering nature, walks or hiking. Worth visiting is Talassemtane National Park in the region of Chefchaouen, which offers cliffs, mountains and wild animals, including boar, foxes, monkeys, eagles and falcons.
The town of Tetouan is about 60 kilometres from Tangier and features Hispanic-Moorish architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage listed medina.
The Medina souk is ideal for shopping and is where you can find the famous zellige tiles, glazed masterpieces made by local craftsmen. Here you can swim in Tamuda Bay and sunbathe on beaches of fine sand. Tetouan is surrounded by the Rif range and by the Thalassemtane National Park, a green oasis for lovers of nature.
Tarifa is a Spanish town, in Andalusia, some 14 kilometres from Morocco, a meeting place between Africa and Europe. A ferry trip of just 35 minutes across the waters of two seas, the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, leads to Tarifa where you can swim from one of beautiful Andalusian beaches (Playa Chica, la Caleta, Playa de los Lances, Punta Paloma) or try kitesurfing and windsurfing thanks to the easterly wind. Don’t miss a visit to the Castillo de Tarifa and a stop in one of the restaurants to try tapas and Andalusian wine.
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