From Andalusia to Morocco, A journey through two worlds
The southernmost tip of Andalusia offers an extraordinary panorama of the Strait of Gibraltar, which connects two continents: Europe and Africa.
The view is absolutely extraordinary, and for some, it is almost unbelievable that these two continents are so close to each other. What if we sailed across the Strait of Gibraltar?
When traveling in southern Andalusia, it is worth considering a one- or two-day trip to Tangier. It is possible to travel from Algeciras and Tarifa. We traveled by ferry from Tarifa, and the view of the receding shores of Europe was very impressive. The crossing takes about an hour, including check-in (bags are scanned similarly to air travel).
As soon as we left the port building, we were immediately surrounded by a loud group of locals shouting their offers. Here's a tip: if you firmly but politely refuse, they will give up.
Tangier - a city of many cultures and histories
Tanger is a typical port city with a long and rich history. It is located on the northern coast of Morocco at the mouth of the Bou Regreg River. The city was founded in ancient times by Berbers and was called by the Greeks Tingis.
The Phoenicians founded the settlement of Tingis in the 7th century BC. It was later ruled by the Romans, Vandals, and Visigoths. In 707 AD, the Arabs conquered Tingis and Morocco, and it became a base for their raids into the Iberian Peninsula.
Tangier's strategic location and its history of wars and disputes meant that the city changed national affiliation many times. In 1471, Tangier was absorbed by Portugal. Almost 200 years later, in 1661, it came under British rule as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese princess who married King Charles II of England. The British controlled Tangier for the next 22 years before returning it to the Arabs, who ruled Morocco undivided until the early 20th century.
The colonization of Morocco by France and Spain also left its mark on Tangier. In 1923, a neutral "international zone" was established in the city. William Burroughs called it as an "Interzone" in his book Naked Lunch, which he wrote during his stay in Tangier.
Interzone in its heyday, Tangier was a destination for many world-class artists who sought exotic oblivion there. Among them were the poet Paul Bowles, members of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. The Free City area was first under French and Spanish protectorate, under the joint administration of France, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Later, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United States also established their influence and administrative divisions there.
This bizarre cultural melting pot lasted until 1956, when Morocco regained its independence and Tangier was reintegrated into the country.
What's worth seeing in Tangier?
- Medina - is the oldest part of the city and is divided into two areas: commercial and residential. The streets cross, and intertwine, and following them we have the impression of walking in a maze. One thing I can admit - there is some kind of magic in all this...
- Grand Socco and Petit Socco - Grand Socco is a large shopping square, while Petit Socco, also known as 'Souk Dakhli', is a square in Medina. This used to be Tangier's largest market, with cafes, hotels, and casinos around it, bringing together the richest in the region. There are two charming cafés here with long-standing traditions: Café Tingis and Café Central
- Musee de la Kasbah - Here you can learn more about the culture, and history of the city and its inhabitants. Nearby is Fils de Detroit, a great restaurant with live music - it is definitely worth checking out and having a cup of mint tea at least
- Cap Spartel and the Cave of Hercules - this place needs to be approached preferably by taxi from Grand Socco. Beware of swindlers! - The cave is easy to get around and we won't need anyone's help to explore the place
- St Andrew's Church - an interesting Moorish-style church, with an English cemetery next door
Coffee & mint tea...
And if you want to relax with a Moroccan tea, here are some cool spots below:
- The above-mentioned Café Tingis and Café Central in Petit Socco
- Anna & Paolo recommended and very cosy bar
- Café Hafa – An iconic café with a century of tradition, located in the center of Tangier. It has hosted many famous writers, artists, and musicians over the decades. The balcony offers a magnificent view of the bay
- Gran Café de París – the most important cultural and literary venue of the era, the "Zona Internacional"
Tangier is not a big city, so getting around the old town does not require a car or a guide. If you want to see other districts of the city or its surroundings, it is safe to take up the offer of pushy taxi drivers. However, be warned: be sure to haggle, and haggle some more - such is the culture and custom in Morocco.
Let's not fully trust the offers made, as they can be misleading. Let's treat the conversation as a fun adventure, but let's not expect that an ordinary taxi driver can take us inside the villas and palaces of sheikhs, etc. He will take us to their surroundings and show us the hedge behind the magnificent, richly decorated fence - and that's it ;)
It's worth paying attention to the technical condition of a taxi before getting in. Once, we got a surprise when we saw the road surface through a hole in the floor!
How to get there
CLICK HERE to check out departure times, reservation options, information, and prices. You can purchase tickets in advance, or in the office before entering the port of Tarifa.
PS On two occasions, we have seen passengers being let in and out of the upper deck through the walkway near the cars on the lower deck of the ferry. At the end of the journey, people gather downstairs in the exit queue and place their heavy luggage on the cars bonnets with total indifference. Suitcases, trunks and large backpacks scratched the paint. If you travel by car ('cause you're going further into Morocco), I would recommend that you get your car queued up as early as possible so that your car is as far away from the entrance as possible.
Ps. I would recommend the book The Seamstress by María Dueñas, in which Tangier is an important background to the whole story...