Tangier, Morocco is called the “Gateway to Africa”.
Locals tend to be fluent in French, Spanish, and Moroccan Arabic.
Getting to Tangier from southern Spain is easy with ferries that leave out of Tarifa. What’s not easy? The Tarifa or the ferries do not have elevators, which means you have to carry your luggage up and down stairs yourself. The upside is the panoramic views of the Gibraltar Strait from the ferry.
One of the most interesting parts of the trip was learning about the Berber culture and observing the camera-shy Berber women in straw hats selling goat cheese. (More on The Berbers of Morocco.)
We stayed at a very chic hotel (Hotel Farah) in the new city with breathtaking views, where we enjoyed lamb couscous, Moroccan mint tea, and delicious breakfasts by the sea.
What to Do:
The Medina or the old city is a labyrinth of alleyways. It is the best place for souvenir shopping. It’s easy to get lost in the medina and hassle by “street vendors” at every corner. I found it to be a bit overwhelming especially since I did not have phone service. However, we did have security guards with our tour group courtesy of Moroccan National Office of Tourism.
I did find a beautiful Moroccan tea set that I could have left Morocco without. And how do you go to Morocco and not come back with a kaftan?
Jewish Quarter of Tangier
We visited two beautiful synagogues and the Jewish cemetery. I can’t describe how increditable it was to visit these Jewish sites with tour members from Moroccan Jewish descent.
Tangier’s Jewish community was mainly made up of refugees from the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions (details here). The majority of the community moved to Israel after in the 1950s. Morocco’s Jewish sites are either UNESCO Heritage sites and/ or protected by the King and the Moroccan government (more here).
The Caves of Hercules is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Tangier. The cave has two openings, one to sea and one to land with awe-inspiring sunset view.
When in Morocco …….
So grateful to have crossed off this spa experience off my travel bucket list. I’m a huge spa lover and had always wanted to experience a Moroccan hammam. Luckily, our hotel had a private hamman (traditionally, Moroccan hammams are public).
This modern-day hammam ritual started in a mosaic steam room for a few minutes followed by a black soap scrub with kessa gloves for a deep skin scrub (helps circulation). The essential part of the hamman treatment is the Ghassoul body wrap: “the beauty secret of Moroccan women”. The Ghassoul is a natural green mineral clay that smells like rose-water and has anti-aging benefits. Thankfully, it’s hypoallergenic since it was applied to my face before I could object (I have sensitive skin). The treatment ended with application of argan oil. After the treatment, I relaxed in the zen room and enjoyed a cup of Moroccan mint tea. I can’t wait to go back to Morocco just for another hammam experience.
What to wear
Considering Yves Saint Laurent grow up and lived in Tangier, you might want to the tour the city in style. Every travel guide to Tangier will encourage you to cover it and dress as modestly as possible. I found all those guides to be overly cautious. Most of the warning only apply to the medina in my opinion. The locals seemed very accepting of other cultures and attire (within reason). I wouldn’t go overboard like wearing a hijab or “Djellaba”.
I decided to go with a long-sleeve Kooples maxi dress to respect local culture and customs. It’s light dress that was perfect for the weather and for a day of touring. Comfort is the key while traveling. I always go with sensible shoes. Also, I had a pair of denim leggings with me to change while camel riding.
What’s on your travel bucket list?
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