Tangier

Night view of Tangier

Tangier (Ar. طنجة, Tanjah, Fr. Tanger) is an important port city in Morocco. The third most populous city in the country, due to its proximity to Spain its a popular entry point to the country and Africa as a whole, as well as an interesting destination in its own right.

Understand

Tangier is more New York than New York. ... Then you must see how alike the two places are. The life revolves wholly about the making of money.Paul Bowles (1910-1999)

Tangier is a fascinating Moroccan city to visit. It has many of the things that travellers love--a sense of exotic mystery, interesting history, beautiful vistas, unspoiled beaches, and friendly people It is an interesting mix of the cultures of north Africa, Spain, and France and indeed has a very international history, and has traditionally been home to people from several different cultures. At the beginning of the 20th century, for instance, a quarter of the city's population were Europeans and another quarter Jewish.

Founded sometime in the 5th century BC, Tangier has been part of all major empires in the region throughout history. During the last centuries major European powers have contested for the city at the southern bank of the Strait of Gibraltar in order to gain control over the traffic between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. This game even brought France and Germany to the brink of war in 1905. Deemed too important to be controlled by a single country, it was under joint international control from 1925 to 1956 (during that period known as the Tangier International Zone). During WW2 and the Cold War it was also major center for spying activities by major powers, as well as a playground for gamblers, crooks and millionaires. Also, several Western cultural personalities such as William S. Burroughs, George Orwell, Matisse and the rock band Rolling Stones have spent some time in Tangier though the most prominent of them was the American author Paul Bowles who lived there for most of his life.

Today the city with a little less than a million inhabitants is the third largest city in Morocco, an important port, center of industry and a popular destination for daytrippers. Frequent ferries make the short crossing from Europe each day, and many cruise ships sailing between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic often include Tangier as a port of call. The Spanish coastline, 30 km away can be seen unless there's haze or fog.

Quite appropriately, Tangier is the birthplace of Ibn Battuta, considered by many to be one of the greatest travellers of all time and on a level with the Venetian Marco Polo. This Berber visited most of the "known" world at that time including most African regions north of Uganda and Eurasia as far as China.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 16.2 16.8 17.9 19.2 21.9 24.9 28.3 28.6 27.3 23.7 19.6 17.0
Nightly lows (°C) 8.4 8.8 10.1 11.2 13.4 16.2 18.7 19.1 18.3 15.6 12.2 9.5
Precipitation (mm) 103.5 98.7 71.8 62.2 37.3 13.9 2.1 2.5 14.9 65.1 134.6 129.3

Source: w:Tangier#Climate

The northwest of Morocco is the wettest part of the country. Compared to the south of the country, the summers are milder and the winters can be relatively cold. Facing the Atlantic directly, temperatures in Tangier are usually even a couple degrees cooler than at the Spanish side of the strait.

Districts

Get in

All persons entering or leaving Morocco are required to complete an entry/exit card and non-residents are permitted to remain in Morocco for a total of 90 days.

By plane

Coming in by plane is the easiest and hassle free way of coming to Tangier: there are no touts at the airport and the prices of the taxis are fixed by the government.

  Tangier-Ibn Battouta Airport (TNG) is located 12 km (7.5 miles) from the city (travel time about 20 minutes). Taxi 100 Dh (10€) from Tangier, 150 Dh (15€) at night or from the airport to Tangier Ville (to train station: 120 Dh). The airport has flights from the largest cities in Western Europe and Morocco, mostly on board budget carriers.

If you’re on a shoestring and need to get to the airport, take a grand taxi to Assilah (20Dh) or Gueznaia and exit when the road goes off to the airport (it's signposted). It’s only a short walk from there (1.8km). Coming from the airport, a grand taxi running into Tanger can be easily caught at the crossing.

When leaving by plane, beware of long queues at passport controls before flights bound for the Schengen area.

By rail

The   railway station, Tanger Ville is at the eastern outskirts of the city. It's a little more than two kilometers from the medina and the port so you may want to take a taxi if you have luggage. Petit taxis cost some 15 MAD.

The country has an excellent railway system with 1,893km (1,176mi) of track and a fine intercity passenger service. Overnight train services running throughout Europe can connect with Morocco. Most of the time, non stop trains are fine but those which are not direct sometimes make unscheduled stops en route but do not panic as you will reach your destination eventually.

There is a night-train leaving from Tangier to Marrakesh at 9:05PM costing 350 Dirhams for a couchette. There is a daily train service to Fez which takes around 5 hours (1st Class: 155Dh, 2nd Class: 105Dh).

When travelling overnight by train, it is usually cheaper to buy a couchette ticket than a first class ticket. On the other hand you will probably not get a good night sleep in a couchette. This is due to the lights being on, movement of people in the train, and conductors checking you ticket numerous times. It is probably a good idea to travel with someone who'll present your tickets, put on eye covers and take a sleeping pill.

By bus

Tangier has two long distance bus stations. The first, at the CTM offices near the port, is the arrival point of most CTM buses. Some other CTM buses, and those from other companies, arrive at the station on   Place Jamia el-Arabia.

By boat

One of the ferries connecting Tarifa and Tangier

Tangier is connected to Tarifa in Spain by ferry. Beware that ferries from Algeciras to "Tangier" do not sail to the port in Tangier city, but instead to the   port of Tangier Med about 40 km further east — it means an additional half hour by bus (25 MAD), train or taxi. As of April 2014, ferry tickets on the line Tarifa-Tangier costs €35 and Algeciras-Tangier Med €20. If you're driving and opt for the the other line, be aware that Tanger Med, the French spelling, is used on road signs and in GPS maps. Yet another alternative would be crossing from Algeciras to Ceuta and overland into Morocco.

There are two companies operating the Tarifa-Tangier line; FRS and Intershipping. The former is more expensive and has fewer daily departures but the ferries are reputedly more modern and faster (35 min across instead of one hour). The number of departures vary during the year, in the summer FRS has five departures in each direction, Intershipping ten. However, during major holidays and summer weekends, it can get really busy and chaotic in the ports. At that time there is reportedly even a risk that you don't get on the ferry you've reserved a ticket for, but have to wait for a later one.

  The port is located beside the Medina, and a few hundred metres from the ville nouvelle. Although the government has been partially successful in reducing the number of touts, money changers, taxi drivers and faux guides hassling people arriving by boat, expect to be mobbed. Look like you know where you're going, politely refuse any offers of help or ignore the "fake guides" completely, or if you really feel like you need to escape jump in a taxi to escape the throng; just make sure that the taxi driver is no worse than the mob you are trying to escape. The taxi rank is inside the port area - you are likely to be mobbed by requests from many drivers. There is no queuing system - just take the taxi which you have agreed a fare with and are comfortable with. The blue coloured petit taxis are substantially cheaper and used more by locals and are preferable to the cream coloured grande taxis who are mostly unmetered. The grande taxis generally also will still try and charge you more even if you have agreed price, be insistent and get all your change back.

If you're coming from further north, Grandi Novi Veloci sails from Genoa and Barcelona to Tangier. As of June 2015, according to the company's website, two persons and a car costs about €700 from Genoa one-way.

By car or motorcycle

Day view of Tangier

When coming into Tangier by car, be careful of hustlers on motorbikes who will ride alongside you and attempt all manner of dodginess.

You can come by car by ferry from Algeciras and Tarifa in Spain or through the Spanish enclave of Ceuta (reached by ferry from Algeciras and ports in Spain). The ferry crossing varies from 1 hour to 3 hours. Shortest and cheapest will be from Tarifa to/from Tangier taking around 40 min. Tarifa is probably the most laid-back option as far as ports are concerned.

Coming by car or motorcycle can be a daunting process especially if you are new to Morocco. You have to complete a temporary import form for the customs ("Douane" in French). Sometimes this is done on the ferry (usually in the busy summer months) and at other times at arrival in Tangier. Like at the airport all persons entering Morocco also have to complete an entry/exit card. The Police and the Customs will both search your car - often not together so you need to be patient.

In recent years, things have improved considerably for tourists and you are not likely to be bothered too much but you will have to go through all the formalities of bringing your car into Morocco like everyone else. You can only bring your car in for 6 months in any one year. You are not allowed to leave it in Morocco unless you are prepared to pay the tax for the car which can be up to three times the actual cost of the car. This applies even if your car breaks, but if your car is written off, you will need to notify the customs authorities to avoid paying tax on a car as an import. There are strict regulations on bringing a car. For example, customs will not allow someone else to the leave the country with a car entered under someone else's name. Exceptions applied for relatives.

Contact details for Moroccan customs (Douane) are:


Administration des Douanes et Impôts Indirects,
Avenue Annakhil, Centre des Affaires, Hay Riad, Rabat
Tél : +212 537717800/01 - +212 537579000
Fax : +212 537717814/15
Email : adii@douane.gov.ma
Web site: http://www.douane.gov.ma

You must have "green card" insurance for your vehicle when driving/riding in Morocco. You can get this insurance from many companies in Europe, or in Morocco at the port in Tangiers. If you are stopped, you must show this insurance to the police. (Police have had a recent directive not to hassle tourists, so you may not be stopped at all, but still you'd better have the insurance in the unlikely event of an accident.) If you do not have insurance from your home country, then local insurance can be purchased at small insurance booths situated at the port. The insurance companies are reasonably reputable and will pay out if you have an accident. Note that this insurance policy has limitations and you are likely to have much more comprehensive cover from insurers from your own country. Most European insurers will cover Morocco and many include it under their standard level of European cover. It's recommended to contact the above authority, if needed, in either Arabic or French.

If you're coming from more southern parts of the country, take the the toll highway from Rabat which is in a good shape.

Motorcyclists will benefit from the vast amount of information in the Morocco Knowledge base for BMW GS'ers in the UK.

If you have problems with your motorcycle in Morocco, Peter at Bikers Home in Ouarzazate can help you get it back in working condition or by trailer to a ferry back to Europe.

Get around

Walking in the medina (old town)

Tangier is very easy to navigate around; the two main roads are Boulevard Mohamed V which runs from near the Medina through the ville nouvelle and Boulevard Mohamed VI (formerly Ave des FAR) which runs along from the beachfront from the port to Malabata. The Medina area is a complex array of alleyways some of which can only be accessed on foot. Mohamed V has a whole range of clothes shops, pharmacies and cafes as well as Hotel Flandria, Hotel Rembrandt. Hotel Minzah lies just off this road. Mohamed VI runs along the beach front where you will find numerous hotels (Rif, Ramada, Sherezade, Solazure, Tariq, Movenpick), bars, discos, restaurants and cafes. Most hostels are situated on the roads heading uphill near the port area.

By foot

Walking is perhaps the best way to see the relatively compact Tangier. In the old town it's also the only way to get around — though you will occasionally encounter locals speeding on scooters along the narrow and bumpy alleys!

By car

The speed limit in the city is 40 km/h. The traffic can be quite busy and chaotic with not only all kinds of vehicles but also pedestrians on the lanes. However, there is also a heavy police presence supervising and directing the traffic, often replacing traffic lights. You should better have some familiarity with Tangier before driving yourself in the city, there are usually not many opportunities to stop and look where you should be going.

At many places there are official car guards (carrying a badge) who help you park and will watch over your vehicle for a fee.

By taxi

View of Place du Grand 9 Avril 1947. In the front petit taxis, further away grand taxis waiting.
See also: Morocco#Get around

There are two types of taxis in Tangier. Grand taxis are cream-colored old Mercedes cars from the 1970's and 1980's, that probably have functioned as taxis in Germany a couple of decades ago. Petit taxis are unsurprisingly smaller, slightly newer Fiats, Renaults and Dacias, painted turquoise. Petit taxis are common, but if it is unmetered make sure you agree on a price first. Most locals in Tangier will be unfamiliar with what we call the "ville nouvelle". To help with agreeing fares and generally with navigating using taxis - the central main thoroughfare is simply known as the "Boulevard", the beach area as "Playa", the port as "Marsa", the medina as "souk barra", the hilly area to the west of Tangier with the Golf Course and Race Track as "California", the residential area heading towards the main road to Tetouan as "Idrissia", the thieves market as "Casa Barata".

For trips outside city borders, you have take a grand taxi - petit taxis may not take you there.

Private Taxi

Taxis in Morocco are much cheaper than in Europe and if you're looking for a less stressful way of getting from A to B than the Grand Taxis, hiring a private taxi for the day can be a good option. For reference, a return day excursion to Chefchaouen would cost in the region of €100, and your driver will wait for you in Chefchaouen until you've finished.

By bus

A ticket for ride on the green city buses costs MAD 4-5.

See

The former Sultan's palace in the Kasbah, now holding the Tangier city museum

Tangier is a city where there are rather few individual sights. Instead, the whole city can be considered one single big sight. Take a simple walk along the beach (Ave Mohamed VI) to enjoy what the city is famed for. In the   port you can see fishing boats bringing in fresh fish everyday. There are also restaurants serving very fresh fish. Moreover, here you can also see the frequent fast ferries arriving from and departing to Tarifa.

The   medina, ie. the old town is probably Tangier's biggest attraction. Its narrow streets and many businesses are a quite interesting experience. You will very likely get lost, though. Also, be aware that both touts on the street and shopkeepers are very eager at selling you everything from fezzes and bracelets to mats and fake Rolexes (also see the stay safe section below).

Landmarks in the medina include   Grand Mosquee, the nearby   petit souk and the fortress (Kasbah).

Do

Terrasse des Paresseux

Walk around the city! Get happily lost in the medina, which is most active in evening and night. Alternatively walk along Boulevard Pasteur with its view to the sea from Terrasse des Paresseux or the beachfront Avenue Mohammed VI and in the port area and look at the fishermen bringing in their catch. When walking around, there are plenty of opportunities for shopping, described in the next section.

For nice views of the city and the seas, head to the aforementioned Terrasse des Paresseux, Kasbah or to the famous Café Hafa in the Drink section.

Events

Buy

Artisan at work in the Medina

The medina is full of small shops, though beware that some of them are tourist traps and salesmen are seemingly outright desperate to get you to buy stuff you really are not interested in. Much of the brasswork is made in other towns but is available here. Leather goods are also available. Stay away from the tourist traps and you may find the price quite agreeable. Colorful leather slippers with pointed toes are great gifts to take home and cost about 600D a pair, more if they have soles suitable for walking outside. Mens and womens clothing can be had for reasonable prices too. When shopping here, bargaining is essential, there are really no fixed prices. It is advisable to negotiate prices in dirhams rather than euros.

There are other markets notably the souk in the medina (mainly vegetables, clothes and tourist items) and in Ben Mekada (vegetables). The latter does not cater for tourists at all and is known as one of the "rough spots" of Tangier and back in the 1980's there were bread riots here.

Eat

Tajine with mutton, prunes and almonds
Mint tea

There are restaurants serving most major cuisines in Tangier. Though while you're here, why not try out the specialties of Maghreb; different types of tagines (stews) and couscous as well as mint tea?

In the morning a "locals" cafe will give you a cafe au lait for 5D. (Cafes where tourists congregate will charge you 10D.) Usually there is a bread vendor at the cafe (by the port or the madina) who will serve you bread with cheese and honey for another 5D. It's perfectly okay to buy your bread/breakfast elsewhere and eat it outside at the cafe. If the bread guy is next to the cafe the waiter will often collect.

You may quickly bore of tagines and street food is a great option for snacking throughout the day. Fresh orange juice costs about 5D; sandwiches of egg, peppers, and sauce are about 10D. Yogurt mixtures can be particularly creative, such as avocado and almonds, or fruit mixtures. Tiny stalls in the souk sell cooked vegetables like eggplant, with rice, and other tasty treats and a meal there can cost 10D or so. In the early evening you may find squares of chickpea cakes sprinkled with salt and paprika.

In the evening, go to the plaza next to CTM bus station. There are several cafes and restaurants facing the plaza. The price and services are good because of the keen competition. Just wandering around in the medina will bring you across numerous Moroccan restaurants offering similar dishes, quality, and prices (main dish around 7 dollars), so you can basically just choose one at random and probably be satisfied.

Vegetarians will find plenty to eat in Tangier and Morocco in general, but vegetarian tagines can become boring after a couple of days and often contain lamb stock. Street food is a lot more creative and fun. If you've brought a camping stove, shop at the souk and make your own. Though, do remember to wash the fruits well. Or you can opt for pizza, Chinese or Indian all of which are available in Tangier.

Tap water isn't outright dangerous, but for visitors it is much safer (and inexpensive) to drink bottled water.

Budget

There are some fresh off-the-boat seafood restaurants for locals in the port behind the warehouses. At the port entrance, walk towards the water and keep to the right. It's on the docks towards the farthest point out behind some buildings...all outdoor seating for the most part. Order a tray of shrimp, a (big) salad and the calamari and fish tray. No menus or prices but it's quite inexpensive and authentic. For about 60 dirham you will get a serving of fish and seafood for one person that could easily feed two, including salad, bread and beverages.

Many cafes also serve snacks and many bars on the beachfront serve tapas. Also, some familiar global fast food brands have restaurants in Tangier.

Mid-range

Splurge

Many of the luxury hotels, including the iconic Hotel Continental, offer a good selection of both Moroccan and continental fare, though at prices much higher than what you will find elsewhere. There are also many restaurants along the Ave Mohamed VI (the beachfront) where one can enjoy a nice meal with a glass of wine on the beachfront.

Drink

Café Hafa

There are many places in Tangier to drink - people have their own favourite haunts. Much depends on the current owner who tends to give the place a certain ambiance. Favorite bars/discos with foreign (and local) clientele include Casa Pepe, Sable D'or, Morocco Palace, Marco Polo (popular with truck drivers) and hotel bars such as Ramada and El Minzah.

You could opt for a coffee instead - there are no shortage of cafes; some of which are the best in the country. Some have amazing views (cafe Hafa), some good coffee, some are popular (cafe Tropicana, cafe Celine Dion), some with music (cafe in the Dawliz complex), some have good cakes (cafe Oslo), some are places to relax after a hard day shopping (cafe Madam Porte, cafe Vienna), and some are just plain sleazy - the choice is yours.

Fresh fruit juices are sold by street vendors during the summer months. The cafes also serve fresh juices and often have what is called a panache - a mix of fruit juices often with milk, apple and almond - try it - its delicious.

Sleep

Tangier from the west

There are plenty of hotels to choose from in all categories. Rates may vary depending on the season. Many riads (traditional Moroccan mansions) nowadays function as hotels, with nightly rates around 300-500 D. These can be found mostly in the medina.

Budget

There are an enormous number of small hotels and hostels in or near the medina, nightly rates are around 50 - 300 Dh. At these establishments, showers and toilets are communal and hot water costs extra. There are also a lot of small hotels at the port, which is walking distance to both the medina and the new city. To find these little hotels you exit the port of Tangiers and in about 100 meters you'll see the Hotel Biarritz (white with hand-lettering in blue). Turn right up the rutted, dirty little alleyway next to it (yes, this is a street) and wind your way uphill to find several small hotels off the main drag on the unmarked Avenue Magellan.

Camping

Mid-range

Hotel Continental is Tangier's grand old hotel and the first thing you see when you're off the ferry

Splurge

Stay safe

View in the Medina

Generally, central Tangier is a very safe city compared with many places in Europe though this does not necessarily apply to the suburbs. The only trouble you may encounter is the persistent touts whom you should ignore, or the con-men ready to fleece you, and you will encounter these almost exclusively in the medina. There are policemen everywhere and you will probably feel safer than at home. Tangier is a safe place for solo women travelers.

Dressing like a local - as opposed to white shorts, shoes, and a backpack - will help you blend in and get good reception from merchants, who will often quote you actual prices instead of inflated tourist prices. There are lots of expats in this city that speaks Spanish first, then English and then French. A polite no thank you and then simply ignoring touts does get rid of them.

This is not the case if you are visiting Tangier as part of a tour (e.g. a day tour from Costa del Sol or a cruise excursion). In this case, as of May 2015, the souvenir touts are going to follow your group during the whole time you're in the medina. Yes, they may have interesting looking stuff for sale, but if you buy anything from anyone of them it will mark you as an easy target and the other ten touts in the gang will basically surround you until you get back on the tour bus. They aren't physically violent, but you would prefer look at the surroundings rather than at their merchandise they're almost stuffing into your nose, right? Save your shopping for the shops, which you will stop at. They are also eager to get to sell you something, but they do at least have a larger selection and won't follow you along.

If you are lost in the medina, you can easily find your way out by going uphill (souk/English church/Nouvelle Village) or down (port). Kids and young men may ask you for money to lead you out (a couple of dirams), or to the Cafe Central, but if you are asked if you are lost and do not want help, say "Yes, but happily," and usually that gets a laugh and solitude.

Go next

Inside the Hercules Caves

Nearby

Further away

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, February 07, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.