The Port of Tangier

The rich and famous are lured by its cosmopolitan ambiance. Artists draw inspiration from its vivid colors and breathtaking landscape. Writers set their stories in its ancient, eccentric corners. Tangier is a fascinating city offering the visitor a unique blend of past and present. You can walk through the narrow, winding streets of the Medina (old town) and feel like you’re traveling back through time, and then, just a stone’s throw away, you can stroll along the streets of the Ville Nouvelle (new town), taking in the sleek, modern structures and perusing the many shops and cafes.

Tangier possesses a culturally rich history due to the historical influence of multiple civilizations. After hundreds of centuries of Phoenician, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Portuguese, Spanish and British occupation, Tangier was declared an international zone in 1923, making it a major global trading hub. The city became renowned for contraband and espionage, as a refuge for smugglers, and a home to writers such as William Burroughs, Paul Bowles and others from the Beat generation. In 1956, Tangier was declared sovereign and is now the economic capital of Northern Morocco and an important cosmopolitan business center.

Tangier’s eclectic character, remnants from the past, and stunning natural beauty make it one of the Mediterranean’s popular ports and a must do for the cultural enthusiast. Some tourists avoid this stop as it can seem a bit seedy and intimidating, but with a little research and careful planning, Tangier can easily become a favorite port on any cruiser’s list.

A Port Day in Tangier

With so much to see and do in Tangier, planning ahead is crucial. If you are visiting by cruise ship, you will only have between 6 and 8 hours to explore. The list of sites can be overwhelming and finding your way around the city has proven to be tricky. We have put together an itinerary for your port day in Tangier which hits some of the major sights and still leaves time for a leisurely stroll and relaxation.

Although it’s possible to take on Tangier on your own, especially if you’re just looking to wander the streets of the Medina, we strongly suggest hiring a guide. There will be plenty of drivers lined up outside the ship looking to offer their services for the day, however, we recommend securing a guide in advance.  Check out the VIP Day Trip with Tangier Private Guides. They will work with you prior to your visit to map out an itinerary, saving you valuable time and hassle while in port. At 35€  per person, this is a great option.

When you disembark the ship, you’ll have a short walk before reaching the city center. There is a shuttle into town and taxis are plentiful. Either way, make sure to take in the spectacular views. It is immediately obvious why Tangier is known as the White City, as the buildings, visible even from the dock, are a stunning white and stretch far up into the hills.

zzzTangierview

 

First up is Cap Spartel, a coastal stop on the northern tip of Morroco and the most north western point on mainland Africa. It is situated where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, right at the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. The Cap boasts breathtaking views of Mediterranean Sea, Spain and Portugal. If you’re looking for scenic photo ops, this is your place. Cap Spartel is about a 20 minute drive from the port of Tangier.

 

Up next are the legendary Caves of Hercules, located about 9 miles west of Cap Spartel. The caves are one of the most popular tourist sights in Morocco due to their natural beauty and archaeological significance. Legend has it that Hercules slept here before completing his 11th labor. The inside of the cave is nothing short of spectacular. As you walk through the corridors you will notice eye shaped markings on the walls. It is a believed that they were made by the Phoenicians and are a map of the area. Perhaps the most well known of the cave’s features is the sea opening which is shaped like the outline of Africa.  One could stand in that spot for hours and watch the waves come crashing in. The caves are now a National Heritage site. Fun fact:  In 1995 the rock band, Def Leopard, played a concert in the cave.

 

After a morning of scenic driving and cave exploration, you will no doubt be ready for lunch. There are many places to grab a quick bite and continue on with your site seeing, or you could opt for a sit down restaurant and experience a multi course Moroccan meal. Either way, we suggest traveling back to Tangier to dine in the Medina, which is also the next stop on our itinerary.

For a sit down meal, we highly recommend Salon Bleu. Located within the Medina, Salon Bleu is a small rooftop restaurant overlooking the sea. As the name suggests, it is decorated with an array of eclectic blue accents, adding charm to an already cozy atmosphere. There are snack sized items on the menu, however we recommend trying the chicken or fish plate. Before the entrée arrives, you’ll be served bread as well as a selection of native salads. Everything from start to finish is delicious. Also, the mint tea is a must!!  Please note, the menu is not in English, nor does the staff speak it. This is where a local guide is especially worth it.

 

After lunch is the perfect time to stroll the Medina, the heart of the city center. The old town is typically busiest in the morning and will likely have died down by afternoon. You could wander the old, narrow streets for hours just taking in the architecture alone. In the Medina you’ll find the Petit Socco filled with shops selling everything from handmade linens, rugs, trinkets and clothing to natural fruits and vegetables as well as meat and other agricultural items. The souk is truly impressive with its vibrant colors and cultural ambiance. Many people complain that they are hassled by shop owners, a problem which can be mitigated by hiring a local guide. Also located in the Medina is the Kasbah, where the sultan once lived, as well as the Kasbah Museum which holds a number of art, archaeological, and manuscript items from Morocco’s history.

 

 

If you still have time left in your day and you’re feeling ambitious, you can stop by the American Legation located in the Medina. This building was the first American public property outside of the U.S. and housed the American Legation and Consulate for many years. This five story mansion is now a research center and museum which holds an impressive collection of artwork, allowing the visitor a glimpse into Tangier’s past.

If you have made it through this list, your day in port is no doubt just about done. This itinerary does not come close to covering all Tangier has to offer, but it is does give you an overview of a fascinating city and includes a good balance of nature, culture and leisure.

TIPS FROM THE EXPERTS

♦ In case we didn’t stress it enough, we’ll say it again:  Hire a guide.

♦ Bring Euros in small denominations. Most restaurants and vendors will take credit cards, but some will not. Most shops will accept Euros, however they may only have Dirhams, the local currency, on hand for change.

♦ Try the mint tea. Tea is a part of everyday life in Morocco. It’s consumed before and after meals and pretty much all day. Mint tea is a Moroccan favorite and is made with mint leaves, green tea, and is sweetened with caramelized sugar.

 

moroccan minttea

 

 

Photos and itinerary info submitted by Exotic Landings Travel Specialist, Randi Bulla

Jane B.
Jane B.
Travel Enthusiast
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