Guide Travel To Tangier

 

Tangier has long been romanticized by artists, Beat poets, and writers who have arrived at its busy shores seeking adventure. Tangier is the gateway to Africa for many travelers. Cruise ships often dock there on their way from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, and travelers in Europe find it easy to take a quick ferry from Spain to the port of Tangier. (More about getting to Tangier below).


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While most visitors to Tangier come for a day, there are some lovely boutique hotels to stay at and once you figure out how to avoid some of the hustle, you’ll appreciate Tangier a lot more by spending a few days here.

What to See in Tangier
Tangier doesn’t have quite the offbeat charm it did in the 1940’s and 1950’s when you could rub shoulders with the likes of Truman Capote, Paul Bowles, and Tennessee Williams, but if you give it some time, and ignore the tourist touts, it will grow on you. Tangier is an interesting, cosmopolitan mix of African and European influences. It’s a port city and port cities are always rough around the edges. Tangier is not very pleasant at night.


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As with many cities in Morocco, there’s an old town (Medina) and a new town (Ville Nouvelle).

The Medina: Tangier’s Medina (old walled city) is a lively place, its alleyways are filled with shops, teahouses, and brothels (it’s a port city after all). Tourist trinkets are plentiful here, if this is your only stop in Morocco, buy away. But if you plan to continue traveling in Morocco, you’ll find better deals elsewhere.

 


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The American Legation: Morocco was the first nation to recognize American independence, and the USA established a diplomatic mission in Tangier in 1821. Now a museum, the American Legation is located in the southwest corner of the medina and worth a look. The museum houses some fascinating art including a room dedicated to Paul Bowles and works by Eugene Delacroix, Yves Saint Laurent, and James McBeay.

 

Place de France: The heart of ville nouvelle and the social focal point for the middle classes in Tangier. A good place to sip some tea and enjoy the sea view is the highly recommended Terrasse des Paresseux just east of the Place.

 

 

The Kasbah: The Kasbah is located high on a hill in Tangier with some good views of the ocean. The old Sultan’s palace (built in the 17th Century) lies within the Kasbah’s walls, is known as Dar El Makhzen and is now a museum that houses fine examples of Moroccan art.

 

Grand Socco: A large square at the main entrance of the medina is a busy transport hub and a good place to watch the chaos of traffic, carts, and people go about their daily routines.

 

Beaches: the beaches closest to town are rather dirty, as is the water. Find better beaches about 10km west, out of town

Getting to Tangier and Away
Tangier is just a short ferry ride from Spain and the gateway to the rest of Morocco whether you travel by bus or train.

Getting to Tangier from Spain (and Back)
Morocco lies just a short 9 miles from Spain. High-speed ferries can take just 30 (choppy) minutes to cross.

Algeciras (Spain) to Tangier (Morocco): Algeciras to Tangier is the most popular route to Morocco. High-speed ferries travel almost every hour, year-round and take around 30 minutes to cross. There are also slower ferries that are a little cheaper. A roundtrip ticket for a foot passenger, on a high-speed ferry, costs 37 Euros.

Tarifa (Spain) to Tangier (Morocco): High-Speed ferries leave every two hours from Spain’s windsurfing capital, Tarifa and take 35 minutes to get to Tangier. FRS offers good service on this route, a round-trip adult ticket sets you back around 37 Euros.

Barcelona (Spain) to Tangier (Morocco): This is not a popular route, but handy if you want to avoid traveling down to the south of Spain. Grand Navi is the company that operates these ferries. A roundtrip ticket for a single foot passenger in a seat (rather than a berth) costs around 180 Euros. Ferries take 24 hours to get to Morocco and 27 hours on the return trip. There’s usually just one ferry scheduled per day.


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Ferries from Italy and France to Tangier
You can also catch a ferry to Tangier from Italy (Genoa), Gibraltar and France (Sete).

Getting to and from Tangier by Train
If you are planning to take a train to visit Fes or Marrakech, then arriving in Tangier is your best option for rail connections to these destinations. The Tangier train station (Tanger Ville) is about 4km southeast of the ferry port and bus station. Take a petit taxi, make sure the meter is on, to get to and from the train station. More about: Train travel in Morocco and the night train from Tangier to Marrakech.

Getting to and from Tangier by Bus
The main long-distance bus station, CTM, is right outside the ferry port terminal. You can catch buses to all the major towns and cities in Morocco. The buses are comfortable and everyone gets a seat.

Where to Stay in Tangier
Tangier has a wide range of accommodation and places to stay vary from cheap and sleazy, to excellent Riads (boutique hotels in restored mansions). Tangier is not a relaxed place to visit, so finding a good hotel that offers a little respite from the hustle, will really make your visit more enjoyable. Make sure you book your first night in advance, there are plenty of hustlers in Tangier who will offer to show you to a hotel. Below are some recommended hotels in Tangier that reflect my personal taste for intimate, mid-range hotels:

La Tangerina: A lovingly restored boutique hotel, with 10 unique rooms. Its location is in the Kasbah, one of the most upmarket sections of Tangier, situated on a hill overlooking the rest of the city. Enjoy meals on the rooftop terrace, with traditional Moroccan cuisine available for dinner. The Tangerina gets the highest ratings on Tripadvisor for all Tangier hotels. Rates start at 45 Euros per night.
Dar Jameel: If you want to stay in the heart of the medina, Dar Jameel is an excellent choice. This boutique hotel offers 8 unique suites around a central interior courtyard, on 5 levels. Each room is beautifully decorated with traditional Moroccan furniture and crafts. Breakfast is included in the rate. Room rates start at 48 Euros per night.
Dar Nour: Small, boutique hotel located in the Kasbah, convenient to all the major sights. The rooftop terrace is gorgeous, overlooking the town and the ocean in the distance, this is where you eat breakfast. There are 7 unique rooms to choose from, stylishly decorated with authentic Moroccan tile, carpets. and furniture. Rates start at 63 Euros per night, including breakfast.
Dar Nilam: Upscale boutique hotel in Tangier offering personalized service, opulent decor, and pick up from the ferry (a nice touch). The hotel has 5 unique rooms, a small garden, and pool. Dinner is traditional Moroccan fare, breakfast is included in the room rate. The hotel is located a mile from the town center and is close to the beach. Rates start at 80 Euros per night.
When to go to Tangier
The best time to visit Tangier is September to November and March to May. The weather is perfect, not too hot, and the tourist season is not yet in full swing. You also have a better chance at finding room at a nice Riad (see above) for a good price.
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Getting Around Tangier
The best way to get around Tangier is either on foot or in a petit taxi. Make sure the driver uses the meter correctly. Grand taxis are much more expensive and you have to negotiate the rate in advance. Of course, you can always get a personal guide through your hotel (see above), or book a day tour before you get to Tangier.

Coping with Hustlers – “Touts” in Tangier
Tangier is infamous among visitors for its persistent “touts” (hustlers). A Tout is a person who tries to sell you something (a good or a service) in an importuned manner. The minute you get off your ferry or train, you will meet your first “tout.” Follow the advice below and you will have a much better time in Tangier.

Assume Nothing is Free
While hospitable and friendly folk abound in Tangier, be careful when you’re in a touristy area and you’re offered something for “free”. It is rarely free.

Advice on where to buy your train ticket or ferry ticket will be offered by many folks, but just be aware these guys work on commission. You can easily buy your own ticket and fill out your own forms. Be firm and say “no thanks” and look confident. If you really don’t know where to go, then be aware you will end up paying a tip for getting help with directions, no matter how many times the offer is given “for free”.

A “free” guided tour around the Medina will most likely lead to an uncle’s trinket shop or a demand for money at the end of the tour. It may also include shops you are not remotely interested in seeing. A “free” cup of tea might include looking at a lot of carpets.

If you hear the word “free”, the price you pay is often not in your control.

But remember your faux guides are simply people trying to make a living to support their families. While ripping off gullible tourists may not seem like the most honest way to make money, it’s simply a survival tactic and you shouldn’t take it too personally. A firm “no thanks” is the best way to deal with the situation. A little humor also goes a long way.

Hotels Don’t Suddenly Appear
This tip is especially useful for the independent travelers. When you arrive in Tangier, either at the bus station, train station or ferry port you will be greeted by many people, inquiring rather loudly, where you want to go to. Many of these folks will earn a commission for taking you to a hotel of their choosing. This doesn’t mean that the hotel will necessarily be bad, it just means you may end up in an area you don’t want to be in; the price of your room will be higher to cover the commission, or the hotel could indeed be quite nasty.

Hotel touts have figured lots of clever techniques to scare gullible tourists into following them to a hotel they earn commissions from. They may ask you what hotel you have booked and then tell you emphatically that that hotel is full, has moved, or is in a bad area. Some hotel touts will go further and even pretend to call your hotel for you and get a friend on the phone to tell you the hotel is full.

Don’t believe the hype. Make a reservation with a hotel before you arrive, especially if you’re arriving in the evening. Your guidebook will have phone numbers of all hotels they list, or you can research online before you go. Take a taxi and insist they take you to the hotel of your choosing. If your taxi driver pretends not to know the location of your hotel, take another taxi.

It’s better to pay a little more for your first night in Tangier rather than to end up somewhere you don’t want to be.

Avoiding Touts (Hustlers) Altogether
If you wish to avoid a lot of unwanted attention, the best thing to do is take a guided tour of Tangier. You will probably still end up in shops you don’t really wish to see and you won’t go off the beaten track — but if this is your first time in Africa, it may be more enjoyable.

Guided Tours of Tangier
Most hotels will arrange a tour for you as well as tours to nearby attractions and towns outside of Tangier. There are lots of tour agencies near the ferry ports in Spain and Gibraltar that have scheduled day trips on offer. You will be with a group on these tours and that has some advantages and disadvantages. Regardless, checking out tour itineraries will help you figure out what to see iWhat to Wear in Tangier
Long pants or long skirts/dresses are recommended. Women will get a lot of unwanted attention by strolling around Tangier in shorts or a short skirt. Wear t-shirts with 3/4 length sleeves.n Tangier.

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Moroccan 7 vegetables couscous with Tfaya


Couscous is originally a Berber dish and for this reason couscous is a staple dish in many North African countries. In Morocco, we have different types and versions of couscous but if you mention “couscous” in Morocco, people will usually assume that you are referring to the most basic version of the famous dish: the 7 vegetables couscous.

The 7 vegetables couscous is composed of semolina grains (granules of durum wheat), topped with vegetables and meat cooked in a super tasty and comforting broth.

For a long time, I used to think that couscous was one of these difficult recipes designed only for experienced cooks, and for a long time I didn’t try to make it although I was missing it very much.

A few years ago, my university friends asked me to cook a traditional Moroccan couscous for a dinner party and… I couldn’t say no. Thanks to my mom (who gave me a very detailed recipe), my first couscous was pretty good, there were no leftovers! But I have made it countless times since that day and I have learned a lot. Hopefully you will benefit from that and you will find the recipe as simple as I do today.

The reason I love couscous is because although its cooking time is quite long, its preparation is very quick. You can get the recipe started and do many things by the time the meal is ready to be served.

Couscous is also one of those perfectly balanced and flavoursome dishes that allows you to help yourself two, three (or more?) times and never feel guilty by the end of the meal.

Enjoy, take a look at the notes and feel free to ask questions!


7 VEGETABLES COUSCOUS+ OPTIONAL TFAYA SAUCE (CARAMELISED ONIONS)

Serve 4 to 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion chopped (200gr)
  • 600 gr braising beef or lamb (off the bone), trimmed of excess fat. (i.e. lamb shoulder, cracked lamb shank, lamb or beef neck, beef shin). If your meat is on the bone, take into account the weight of the bone and make sure you get about 125 gr of meat per person.
  • 250 gr canned chickpeas (or 125 gr dried chickpeas soaked in cold water overnight), drained.
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Generous pinch of saffron
  • 1 coriander bouquet, tied
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped in 2 cm large pieces
  • 1 small cabbage (600gr), quartered through the base
  • 1 large sweet potato (250 gr), peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 300 gr turnip, peeled and cut into 3 cm lengths
  • 3 carrots (300 gr), scraped and cut into 4 cm lengths
  • 200 gr courgettes cut into 5 cm lengths (not necessary for baby courgettes)
  • 300 gr butternut squash or pumpkin, seeded if necessary and cut into large chunks
  • 4 cups dried couscous (650 gr)

METHOD

• In a large casserole (minimum 5 litres capacity), heat the olive oil over medium heat and add in the onions, the meat, the spices, salt, pepper and half of the tomato pieces. Turn the meat occasionally until lightly browned, about 10 min.

• Add 1.5 litres of water and the chickpeas. Bring to the boil, reduce to medium low heat and place the coriander bouquet in the casserole. Cover with a lid and let gently simmer for 50 min.

• Prepare the vegetables and set aside.

• Now is a good time to start preparing the raisins and the couscous. The raisin recipe is below and the plain couscous recipe is here. The raisins are optional but if you like sweet and savoury dishes, you will love this addition.

• Carefully discard the coriander bouquet and place the cabbage, turnip and carrots in the broth, cover the casserole with a lid and let it simmer for 35 min. Make sure the vegetables don’t stay at the surface and are well inserted in the broth, otherwise they might not cook evenly.

• Add the potatoes to the broth and cover the casserole for another 20 minutes.

• Meanwhile, place some of the broth (about 6 tablespoons) in a separate casserole or large deep skillet over medium heat and add in the courgettes and butternut pieces. Cover with a lid and cook for 20 minutes until fully cooked. Flip the courgettes and butternut halfway through cooking. The reason why we cook the courgettes and the butternut separately is because once cooked, they become very fragile and they might break if you cook them in the broth with the rest of the vegetables.

• At this stage, your broth and vegetables are ready to be served. Adjust the seasoning by adding salt if necessary.

• Using tongs, carefully remove the meat from the casserole and cut the meat into smaller individual pieces. To serve, place warm couscous grains in a plate and top with meat, vegetables and some tablespoons of the broth to make it moist. Add raisins (optional).

Notes

• As you can see, I used a regular casserole for this recipe as opposed to a couscousiere. In my opinion it saves a lot of time and hassle to cook the broth and the couscous grain separately and there isn’t much difference in the taste. Also, I assume that the majority if you don’t own a couscousiere, it will be too bad not to enjoy Moroccan couscous because of that.

• Keep the meat in large pieces when you place it in the casserole in the beginning of the recipe. Small pieces of meat will get even smaller after hours of slow cooking and you might struggle to find them in the broth once they are cooked. In my opinion,  it’s simpler to cook large pieces of meat and cut them in individual pieces before serving.

• In Morocco, people traditionally season the couscous grains with “smen” when preparing them. Smen is a type of salted fermented butter and has a very distinctive taste. If you like it, use smen instead of olive oil when preparing the couscous grains.

• Feel free to play around with the recipe and add or use different vegetables. Moroccans traditionally use 7 vegetables because “7” is a lucky number in the Moroccan culture.

•  Make sure to insert the vegetables at the right time so the meat and the vegetables will be ready at the same time. The way I calculate the cooking time for the vegetable is very simple. I assume that the meat will take about 2 hours to cook (or more for some cuts). I leave the meat to cook in the broth (with the chickpeas, onions, tomatoes…) until it is time to insert the vegetables so they will be ready at the same time as the meat. Keep in my mind that some vegetables cook faster than others.

• Use quinoa instead of couscous grains for a gluten free version of the 7 vegetables couscous. If you are on a vegetarian diet, omit the meat. If you like, spicy like me, add a teaspoon of harissa to your plate.

• You can keep the couscous grains, the broth, the meat, the vegetables and the raisins for up to 3 days in the fridge.

 

OPTIONAL TFAYA SAUCE (CARAMELISED ONIONS)

Serve 4 to 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 large onions (400 gr), chopped
  • 400 gr dark seedless raisins, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes and drained
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons honey (or sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon salt

METHOD

• Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat and place the onions. Cover with a lid and leave the onions until they are soft and translucent, about 10 min. This will allow sweating the onions.

• Uncover and add about 6 tablespoons from the vegetable and meat to the raisins, salt, cinnamon and honey. Leave over low heat and simmer gently until golden brown, about 35 min. Stir occasionally to make sure the onions don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

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