Old port from Continental Hotel
Sailing into Tangier's Cafes - Tangier, Morocco
The high speed ferry leaving Algeciras or Tarifa has made Tangiers a popular day trip from the resorts of southern Spain. The boat leaves the cranes, queuing cars and high fences of Algeciras behind and slips through the Strait of Gibraltar, passes the disputed rock and, within 45 minutes and before the hills of Andalucia have disappeared, it docks at Tanger Med Port. The daytrippers then glance at their watches and try to cram as much Morocco as they can into the next few hours. Trying to see the city, that took writers like Paul Bowles decades to contemplate, in this timescale is a feat liable to make the contender hot, dusty, tired and more than a little grouchy added to the practicality that the new ferry port is a 45 minute taxi ride from central Tangier.
If you are able to, stay at least one night in Tangier before making your way further down Morocco or back to Europe, leaving plenty of time to while away a few hours in some of the best people watching and mint tea sipping places:
- The Zoco Chico is a tiny square tucked into the folds and creases of the Medina. From outside one of the cafes that hug the square, watch the daily drama of Medina life as traders, local shoppers and bemused tourists bustle past.
- Spend a Friday evening in one of the grand cafes surrounding the Place de France either watching Tangier's upwardly mobile generation parade past or gazing at the imposing French Embassy and wondering why the ambassador seems to have a fleet of security geese on patrol.
- The famous Cafe Hafe (Avenue Mohammed Tazi) is cut into the cliffs and it's multi level shady garden, is the ideal place for a lazy Saturday morning. The soaring view stretches across the sea, back to the Spanish hills.
- I stayed at the Intercontinental (not part of the chain) after my troublingly bad Arabic re-routed me from my original destination of The Continental. Both are clean, comfortable and good options in different ways. If traditional architecture and distinguished history are your thing and you can block out the overwhelming amount of European and US tourists, go for The Continental. If splashing about in a small, garden swimming pool along with visiting North African families sounds more pleasant and you can ignore a penchant for neon lights and a slightly seedy looking bar, stay at the Intercontinental. The Continental is far better for food. The Intercontinental is nearer Cafe Hafe.
- I travelled from London to Tangier by train and ferry, using www.seat61.com for all of the planning and flew back Royal Air Maroc.
- It's pretty daunting writing about Tangier, when there is the marvellous writing of Paul Bowles in publication. Ask your local bookstore for a copy of "Travels", a writing collection which has just been re-released.