One of the things I knew we had to do when we got to Europe was go to Africa. After researching things to do over spring break, I decided that we were going to do a southern Spain tour and cross into Tangier, Morocco.
The hotel we were staying at was located in Tarifa, Spain. Tarifa is where the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea meet. Pretty cool if you ask me! But that is about the only cool thing about Tarifa. It was a really nice city don’t get me wrong, but it had so much potential to be better.
Tarifa is the southernmost point of Europe. Here on a good day you can see across the strait of Gibraltar into Africa. The Strait of Gibraltar is what separates Africa and Europe. Want to guess how far away the two continents are? ~32km! So about 20 miles! How crazy is that? That’s probably why Tarifa is the best place to ferry across to go to Morocco.
For our day in Tangier, I booked a private tour guide with Aziz Benami. I found him by Googling “tours in Tangier.” Google is such an amazing tool. I have no idea what I would do without it now! Aziz came with amazing reviews and even a recommendation from Rick Steves. I’m a big Rick fan, so by that alone I was sold!
I chose to do the TOP VIP Day trip (€79.00 per person), which included:
- Round trip ferry tickets with the fast ferry
- Assistance at arrival and departure in the port of Tangier
- Air Conditioned Transportation with driver, English speaking private guide
- Entrance fees to museums
- Drinks & Lunch
- 30 minute Camel Ride on the beach.
I did a lot of research about going to Morocco. I read blog after blog about people’s firsthand experience and got mixed reviews. Some swear by doing it on their own. Others swear by getting a guide. I would suggest using your own judgment. I was glad we booked a private tour.
FRS, the ferry company, does tours and they are fairly inexpensive. I think the cheapest I found was 70€ per person, which included RT tickets and a tour through the city. I know 70€ pp seems like a lot, but come to find out round trip tickets from Tarifa (which is the cheapest port to leave from) is 60€, so why not pay a little more and get a guide to show you around the city?
Aziz gave us all the information we needed including what to expect when we got to the port. We went up to the cashier with our reservation number and picked up our tickets. The attendant had forgotten to give us the paperwork the Moroccan government wanted us to fill out to enter and exit! Luckily our information from Aziz had said we should have received the paper work from the attendant, so knew to go back for it. Do not board the ship without a Yellow and a White paper PER person. Everyone needs to fill one out.
We went through customs before boarding the ship and I got another passport stamp! The fact that I got a stamp made me very excited, I’m trying to fill up my passport as much as possible.
Once on the ship we found seats and waited for the ship to fill. FRS, says it’s only a 30 minute trip across the strait. Technically the travel time is only 30 minutes. What they don’t tell you is that they don’t actually leave port until 30 minutes later, we left at 1130 and arrived at 1200. Not bad, except for the fact that we were on the ship before 1100.
Then once we got to Tangier. We had to wait for the Moroccan Customs agents to board the ship to stamp our passports again! I think I’ve just gotten use to being in Germany where everything is efficient and organized, because getting my passport stamped when we got to Tangier was a nightmare. But we were finally in Tangier. We had made it to Africa!
After disembarkation we made our way to the port while our guide would be waiting for us. When emailing with Aziz, he had told me that he was already booked for the day, but one of the guides he had trained personally would be taking us around.
In all the blogs I read I knew we would be bombarded by other guides looking to hit up some unknowing innocent tourist. I knew it was coming, but we were pestered non-stop. We had a 5 minute walk from where the ship ports and the actual port building where our guide was waiting, and the whole time we were pestered and told that they needed to be our guide. But we kept walking, but one guide kept up with us and kept saying that we needed a guide and that he was going to be our guide. Luckily he stopped following us and we meet up with our guide.
We started off with a ride through the old town. Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable and you could tell how passionate he was about Tangier and its history. We started off the tour with an interesting drive through the new part of the city, ‘California,’ which is considered to be the richest area of Tangier’s zone of villas and palaces. It was filled with places like the king’s palace and celebrities homes.
From there, we stopped off for a visit to Cape Spartel, which is the north western point of Africa. It is the exact point where the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean meet. At Cape Spartel we stopped in at the little cafe for some mint tea and authentic Moroccan sweets. The small pastries were delicious, and the tea certainly hit the spot.
In the sent itinerary, we were told we would be going to the Caves of Hercules, I’m still not entirely sure what was special about it, but we didn’t get to go. The Caves of Hercules have been closed for renovation for over a year!
From the cape, we headed down to the beach where we got to ride camels! I’ve seen my share of movies where they ride camels in the dessert. Yes, camels are cool, but huge! Truth be told, I was a little terrified to get up on one, but Drew encouraged me, and I hopped up.
Our tour guide explained to us there are two types of camels. Those with one hump, and those with two. The camels we rode only had one hump. Apparently, these are the ones indigenous to Africa. The camels with two humps are found in the Middle East and Asia.
We had a very fun 30 minute ride along the beach on a camel, and the camel herder (are they called herders?) was funny! He sang us songs, had the camels gallop, and even took our pictures. The herder spoke little English, but was able to sing Bob Marley to us, and tell us how to pose for pictures. He was very friendly, and made the ride fun and interesting.
After leaving the beach, we headed back into town and got a tour of the old city by visiting the Kasbah with its beautiful museum (The Sultan’s Palace). We even got to see where the American Embassy was located. Why is there an American Embassy in Tangier? Not sure if you know this (I didn’t), but Morocco was the first country in the world to recognize the American independence from the British and recognize the United States of America as a country! How cool is that? I had no idea.
Lunch & the Market
We got to see some pretty cool things, and by the time we had finished in the Kasbah I was starving! It was lunch time, well more like an early dinner. We met up with the driver and our guide told us that we would be meeting up with Aziz and he would be taking us to lunch. I didn’t hear anything he said besides lunch. I was famished.
We met up with Aziz and I could tell instantly why Rick Steves had recommended him. He was extremely knowledge about Tangier (he’s originally from the Sahara Desert), and he knew all the little side roads to take to get us to our destination quicker than the main route.
We were dropped off in the old town. Aziz had told us that he likes to take the TOP VIP tour guests to this place for lunch. It’s called Le Saveur du Poisson also known as Restaurant Populaire or Popeye’s. But they were busy! Anthony Bourdain had done a special on this resturant and many people who visit Tangier come here because of his episode.
Unfortunately they didn’t take reservations, but Aziz assured us that eating at this place was what it meant to be a local in Tangier. We trusted him this far. So I told myself I wasn’t that hungry and Aziz took us around the Market. Thursdays and Sundays are market days. Sundays are the bigger market days, but Thursdays are great days as well. We were lucky to have been there on a Thursday. Aziz took us around the market with fresh meat, fresh veggies and fruit. It was amazing! The strawberries were almost the size of my fist! I wish we could have bought some to take back with us.
Some time had passed and we ended up back at the restaurant. A table had opened up and we were told to sit down. Aziz told us he would be back in an hour and to enjoy our meal, but no menus were brought and I wasn’t sure what we were going to eat! I didn’t really need to worry, the style of the restaurant is just sit back and wait to be served. You won’t have the stress of thinking what to eat for today because they will bring it to the table. Wait to be surprised! I don’t like surprises, I like surprises that I’ve hinted at for months, but this was a great surprise.
We had finished eating. Everything. It was soo good we couldn’t stop. Drew is usually skeptical when it comes to eating seafood (especially when it looks like it did), but he couldn’t stop eating, he enjoyed it so much. Think Thanksgiving! Ha. We had been eating for an hour because Aziz had come back and we were off again.
He took us around the market one more time, and took us to a co-op who made rugs. When we went to Istanbul our tour took us to a rug store, and I really wanted one! This time, it took everything in me not to say “Yes.” The quality is amazing. It was so soft, easy to clean, fire proof, water proof, pet proof and it could possibly be a family heirloom. I really wanted one. But I couldn’t really justify a 600-1000 euro carpet. One day though.
Once we realized our time was nearly up we hit a little souvenir store, got our shot glass and magnet (we even found a little camel to turn into an ornament), and headed back to the port.
We said our goodbyes to Aziz and our guide, headed back through customs with our yellow forms and back to the ship which would take us back to Tarifa.
It was a wonderful day in Tangier! The ferry ride back was not kind to us though. I never get sea sick, but the whole ride back Drew and I were nauseated and we weren’t the only ones. I would suggest packing Dramamine and taking some before getting on the ferry. The Mediterranean Sea is not always kind.
Note: Teanna first posted this article on her website, but also shared it with Germany Ja here!