Tanger (Part I)

Wow, I don’t even know where to begin.  I’m both in shock that this weekend- a weekend that I have been looking forward to for so long- is over, and also amazed by what an amazing time I had in Morocco.DSC_0451  

It was everything that I expected, but also very different from what I expected.  Since coming to Spain, I have had Morocco very close to the top of my “must travel” list.  Something about the thought of winding streets, open-air markets, the wildness of the community, and the totally different culture called to me.  Plus, endless tajines, cous cous, and camels also had something to do with it.DSC_0218

I never got it together to go last year and the thought of going during the summer was less than appealing.  With a nice, long four day weekend smack-dab in the middle of March, Luis and I jumped on a pair of low-cost tickets and went for it.  How did we decide on Tanger (and Chefchaouen) as opposed to, say, Marakech (where everyone and their mom goes)?  Well…flight tickets that were 1/3 of the price pretty much sealed the deal for us.  We didn’t really do any planning and just bought the tickets waaaay back in January.  And I’m so glad we did!DSC_0291

For organization purposes, I am going to split these posts by location even though we actually spent two days in Tanger, one in Chefchaouen and then a half day in Tanger.  

Day OneDSC_0048

Tanger is a quick 1-hour flight for us Spanish folk, so having a flight that left at 12:25 put us in Tanger just a few minutes later (because of the time change).  We were like (this) close to missing our flight because somepeoplewhoshallnotbenamedLUIS take forever to get ready and his mom had to make us (very, very appreciated and delicious) tortilla, but with some quality sprinting through the airport, we made it on our flight mildly breathless and sweaty.

Once we arrived, we went through the pin-sized airport, through the questionable security, took out a little bit of Dirham (money) from an ATM while simultaneously praying that the machine wouldn’t eat the card, found ourselves a taxi who probably only moderately ripped us off (gotta start somewhere!), and we were on our way!

We booked a hotel right in the center of Tanger (in the Petit Soco).  Tanger isn’t very big, but it was so nice to be able to walk out the door and be in the middle of everything.DSC_0006 DSC_0003

 Or…to be able to stand on the balcony with tortilla de mama espanola and watch the life go by below.DSC_0009

We stayed at Hotel Mauritania, and besides a lack of hot water, it got the job done.  For only $70 for 3 nights (plus the 2 Euro/ night/ person “tax” that we had to pay…), you can’t really go wrong.

After dropping off our bags, we set off for some exploring!  We walked out of the hotel and headed through the Medina (old town), which is a large maze of winding, cobble-stoned streets lined with shops and shop-keepers.DSC_0025

Almost immediately, we accidentally found ourselves in a market full of fruits, vegetables, meat (both alive and dead and alive but about to be dead…) and fish.  I later realized we were in the Souk.DSC_0016 DSC_0019 DSC_0020

My element, 100% (minus the bugs)

From there, we meandered until settling in for our first mint tea (for me) and coffee (for Luis) of the trip, while doing a little people-watching in the Grand Socco, also known as the Plaza de 9 Abril.DSC_0030-001 

The Grand Socco is a large square (more like circle), lined with lots of cafes and restaurants and it’s full of men sitting, chatting, and having tea.  I was absolutely amazed by the lack of women present in public.  Very, very few women were out and about and those that were out were selling things or buying things.  Men, on the other hand, were abundant in cafes, on the street, and everywhere in between.  They sit in cafes, drinking their tea, all facing the same direction (presumably to watch tv).  While I wouldn’t say I wouldn’t go to Morocco without a male companion, I definitely felt safer not being alone.

Anyway, back to the Grand Socco.  It was traditionally Tangier’s hub for visiting merchants, and is now a large transportation hub and meeting point.DSC_0033

On one side, it has The Grand Mosque of Tangier, also St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, which was a gift from the British community in 1881, followed by the entrance to the Mendoubia Gardens with a huuuuuge tree:DSC_0035

Also, there is a cinema (Cinema Rif), and entrances to The Medina and you’ll see day laborers sitting in front, looking for work.  Each one sits next to a symbol of the type of work they do (paint cans for painters, etc.).  Once we finished our coffee, we continued our walk and headed back into the Medina where we saw many vendors selling brightly-colored fruits, vegetables, fresh bread, and more.DSC_0044 DSC_0055 DSC_0075 DSC_0081

I found the Medina to be fascinating, from the sheer number of people walking, shopping, and yelling, to the craziness of their day-to-day life.  My guidebook told me that since people can’t afford their own phones, ovens, or running water, they often share these things as a community.  There are hole-in-the-wall bakeries where locals can leave dough, meat, fish and nuts and then pick it up later.  There are local water taps for washing and rooms with TVs for kids to watch or play video games.  

If you find yourself getting lost, know that if you head downhill, you’re heading towards the ocean, and if you head uphill, you’re heading towards the Kasbah, which is where we headed.  The Kashbah is translated as “fortress”.  Originally, this was the upper quarter of the old town.DSC_0087 DSC_0092

The Kasbah has a number of highly recommended cafes, including Cafe Hafa and Cafe Baba.  We were looking for Cafe Hafa, but found Cafe Baba instead.  We didn’t stay, since it was full of smoke, but it’s there.  Along the way, we stopped for pictures.


He’s our appointed tour guide.DSC_0099 DSC_0105

We never did find Cafe Hafa, but we did find some amazing views!DSC_0114 DSC_0111 DSC_0117DSC_0135

After some exploring through the Medina and more failed attempts at finding this cafe, we made our way back down towards the Grand Socco for some dinner.  Our (my) stomachs were saying “feed me”.DSC_0153

“where are we???”

Before dinner, we stopped for a little appetizer at this bread stand where they were making fresh breads that can be ordered with Laughing Cow cheese.  Don’t mind if I doooo 😉DSC_0151

It did a nice job of curbing my hunger.

We had seen a restaurant that looked really good earlier, so I suggested that we go there.  Normally I am all for the NON-touristy places and getting a real, authentic experience, but after hearing some horror stories in regards to food poisoning from Morocco, I thought it was better to err on the touristy side.

Our meal started just as every Moroccon meal (in restaurants, at least) start.  With olives!  DSC_0159

I love, love, love olives, so you can rest assured that we ate them all.  Plus bread.  Plus all of this goodness:DSC_0163

chicken and vegetable tajineDSC_0165

fish tajine (including shark!!  blech)

In my opinion, these tajines looked better than they tasted, but they where still good.  Not bad for a first meal…and hey!  no food poisoning so WIN WIN.  While paying, they brought us this hefty book with pages and pages dating back to 2013 of “thank yous”.  DSC_0169

We headed back to the hotel and called it a night!  Since there is no (easily found) alcohol in Morocco, the options for a wild Friday night include… mint tea.  DSC_0171Men, men everywhere.

Day two, coming SOON.DSC_0084