My fellow photography fanatic, Diego, decided to cross not only a geographical border, but also a cultural, and religious one as well. We went in search of one of the most stunning and beautiful places we've ever heard of of. Chefchaouen. It is perched strategically on a hillside, hence its military and historical value. The place is covered by indigo walls and floors. Actually, everything is indigo! Feral cats are moved by it as authentic protagonists. A walk around the neighborhood places Andalusian recognize me as familiar to me as the Santa Cruz in Seville. The song of a local woman heard from the silence of the street ends to make me understand that we are not so far from home.
The Spanish Arcila is one of the most maintained cities of Morocco. The medina is small but beautiful, with its whitewashed houses and its doors and windows painted green and blue. In its extreme southwestern location many citizens come to enjoy the unforgettable sunsets. Young people like cliff diving, hitting the sea from a 50m drop.
The medinas of Tangiers, Tetouan, Chefchaouen, Asilah and Larache are beautifully kept and are monuments whose visit makes us experience unforgettable feelings. A true wonder. Some videos of the Medina of Tangier.
Morocco is full of similarities with Spain, this summer we visited Assilah, a small seaside town reminiscent of those on the coast in southern Spain. Withy a great atmosphere and where visitors are free from prejudices to get to know its people, taste the food and stroll through its streets.
A place to return to again and again.
If you're in Tangiers and have time, I'd recommend visiting the Grotto of Hercules, only 5km from the gorgeous Cape Spartel and about 20km from Tangiers itself. The caves are a product of the waves pounding against the surf and the place is the center of many myths. Some say that the caves were left by indent when Hercules separated Africa from Europe. The entrance costs 10cents (euros) and there are lots of souvenir stalls in the area as well. It's popular among foreign visitors and it's not unusual to see big groups of Koreans and Japanese, as well as locals offering up their camels for photos.
In the early morning, the Medina looks deserted. After a while, the Berbers begin to come down from the mountains bringing their plants and vegetables to sell. The market becomes a world full of colour, with souks and artisan streets, etc. It feels like you're in the medieval ages, stuffed like sardines in a can next to big bags of bread. It's very interesting, how it comes alive! You can clearly why there is even a water boy selling water in cups, which I thought was very interesting. There are men in bars drinking green tea with mint, with no alcohol, looking at us incredulously as if we were from another planet.
The Tangier Souk Grand (Grand Socco) is the commercial centre of the city. It is one of the most frequently visited places by city dwellers and tourists. It is the gateway to the medina, and is chaired by the famous square Place du Grand Socco or 9 avril,linking the medina and the new town. Sidi Bou Abid Mosque, built in 1917, presides over this area and has a minaret with pretty polychrome tiles. It is a pleasure to walk through these streets, full of slipper shops, spices, bazaars with all kinds of fabrics, food markets, fishmongers, butchers and greengrocers ... You can not miss going into the shops to haggle with the locals. The most famous products are spices (especially saffron), the slippers, teapots, pottery and Arabic sweets. The atmosphere is lively and the Moroccans will help you in whatever you need. There are many people on the streets until eleven or twelve at night, although I was recommended girls go home at around 10pm. Anyway I felt safe and did not encounter any problems. Another thing that you can not miss in the Grand Souk is a mint tea in one of the teahouses. Also their popular fruit smoothies and juices, particularly orange.
In Spain, specifically in my area, Alicante, years ago there was an old laundry where clothes were washed before they invented the washing machine. Well, speaking of Chefchaouen, true thet treat you like gold because, besides being used by many women it serves as a tourist landmark, but we must congratulate them on such good conditions although it has lost some magic. The way up, withbeautiful views, it is lovely to see so much water running, one of the high lights of the people ...
If you are going to buy in the medina of Tangier I recommend avoiding the main streets, and I suggest you go in adjacent streets offer interesting and authentic things where locals shop as well. On the main streets they will surely offer you low quality items aimed at unsuspecting tourists at rather high prices. If you want to get slippers, teapots, fabric or you want to dig for a good price and compare prices you have to become an expert in the art of haggling. My advice is not to appear to be too excited when you see a garment or object you like, and do not believe everything they tell you, as they usually have a enviable persuasiveness. To get an idea about the craft fair prices guides usually recommend going to the Ensemble Artisanal (with Rue Rue Belgique M'sallah), which is a craft trade center funded by the Moroccan government in which prices are fixed. I recommend going here to enjoy all it has to offer and all of the things that are on sale.
Tangier Ibn Battouta Airport, located halfway between Tangiers and Asilah, is a small tourist-oriented airport with all the basic services for tourists: currency exchange, small bars (including a nice outdoor terrace), and some shops. In my experience, it's the best place to change money into dirhams, though you can always go to a bank or ATM in the city center if you run out during your trip (it will be a little bit more expensive). Europeans don't need a visa to visit Morocco, just a valid passport. There are low-cost carriers like EasyJet and Clickair which operate direct flights to Tangier from a lot of European cities (but especially Spain) for only 30 or 40 euros. To get from the airport to the city of Tangiers, you need to take a cab called a Grand Taxi. Grand Taxis are the cream-colored ones and you need to negotiate the price before you go. Most taxi drivers want you to pay 150 dirhams but you can usually haggle them down to about 100, which is a fair price.
The Petit Socco (also known as the Socco Chico) is a small square in the Tangiers Medina which you can reach by taking Rue Semmanne from the Grand Socco. It's a great place to hang out and observe the comings and goings of this enchanting city where artists such as William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Camille Saint-Sans all found their inspiration. The Petit Socco is surrounded by hotels and cafes and I'd suggest getting a mint tea on one of the outdoor terraces. It's fun to watch the older men playing backgammon while they chat and sip their teas. Any of the cafes are good, but I recommend the Central Cafe.
Tangier's Port is one of the key points of sea communication between Spain and Morocco. There are routes from Algeciras (one hour), Tarifa (35 minutes), and even from Barcelona (28 hours). This is Morocco's main seaport because of its strategic location between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. It is the country's number one port for traffic and passengers. On leaving the harbour there are numerous hustlers trying to get a tip for taking you to the medina or to your hotel. They are generally harmless. The best way to overcome them is to take a taxi. If you go to downtown, to the medina, or the centre, you have to take a blue taxi, which are small and metered. They do not generally cost more than 1.5 or 2 euro. If you are going outside the city or to a town nearby, you can catch one of the bigger taxis, which are cream-coloured, not metered, and you have to negotiate the price before you get in.
On any highway in Morocco, you can always find stands set up selling all kinds of glazed and un-glazed Moroccan ceramics. Everything from household items like tagines to more decorative pieces. Really lovely stuff and a great souvenir in my opinion.
The imposing silhouette of Dar el Makhzen dominates Tangier's casbah. Formerly the governor's palace, it was built in the XVII century and stands around a splendid courtyard adorned with glazed porcelain. The Museum of Moroccan Arts is housed in the princely apartments, which honour its name with its painted wood ceilings, its sculpted plaster and its mosaic tiles. The Andalusian garden is a peaceful, fragrant haven that evokes scenes of a thousand nights. Unfortunately, some parts of it have begun to deteriorate, and it would be wonderful if it was completely restored in the near future.
Cape Spartel (Cap Spartel) is situated 14 kilometers west of Tangier, the far northwest coast of Africa. I recommend going from Tangier in a taxi. If you have time it is best to visit on the way to the coastal town of Asilah and the Caves of Hercules, because it is worth a visit and does not take more than an afternoon or a morning. This place is special because it connects with the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean and has wonderful views, next to the lighthouse, where you can go up and take pictures from if the lighthouse keeper is there. The journey from Tangiers is very beautiful, with beaches and forests where birdwatchers can enjoy migrating birds heading to Europe or returning to Africa. The surrounding area is called Plage Robinson, and you have something to eat or drink there, as there are several terraces and a seafood restaurants to choose from. The other end is Cape Malabata.
The Museum of the Kasbah (also known as the Dar el-Makhzen Museum) is located in the Kasbah in the highest part of Tangier. The entrance is in Place du Mechoir which also has magnificent views of the Strait of Gibraltar with Spain in the background. The museum is in what was formerly the Sultan's palace and contains an interesting collection of Moroccan art spanning the entirety of Tangier's history. The palace was built by Moulay Ismail in the 17th century and was subsequently expanded several times. When you enter, the first thing you find is a lovely Moorish courtyard decorated with painted tiles and arches. A little further on, there is a larger courtyard which gives access to the exhibition rooms. This courtyard has a fountain, fifteen columns with plaster moldings, and a floor covered with Moorish tiles. The exhibits are of traditional Moroccan crafts including leather, carpets, weapons, jewelry and ceramics, all with small panels explaining their history and origin. There is also a very well-preserved Roman mosaic called the Voyage of Venus.
It is an adventure recommended on the African Atlantic coast and part of the interior. Natural sites, charming and closer to us than we think. To enjoy it, from our point of view, forget the luxuries and prejudice and look to capitalize on every moment as much as possible. Everything you see will tell a story if you want to listen, from the mountains to the architecture of Morocco and its medieval buildings. A healing experience.