TANGIER DAY TRIP
Motoring down the Spanish highway, departing from Marbella and heading toward Tarifa on the Spanish side of the Staits of Gibraltar, the early morning sun was bright and the day ahead was full of promise. I’d never before been to Morocco. And although this would be a brief, one day visit to the city of Tangier, it still had the potential of a colorful adventure.
Tarifa is a small port city on the southeastern tip of Spain. From there various ships and boats set sail for a variety of destinations in the region. Today I was embarking on a large high speed passenger and vehicle ferry which plys the waters across the twenty mile wide Straits of Gibraltar between Tarifa and Tangier on a daily basis.
The ferry is well appointed, with seating in airliner type chairs, but thankfully with much more legroom. Some are arranged nicely around tables where you can enjoy your own beverages and snacks if you were smart enough to plan ahead. Otherwise there is a nice snack bar which offers a fine variety of tasty treats and drinks for purchase at a surprisingly reasonable price.
Travel from Spain to Tangier, Morocco is, of course, an international journey. And times being what they are, there is the obligatory screening process prior to boarding the ferry. Once on board you must also go through passport control prior to disembarking in Tangier. A word to the wise. This is a slow process. On the day of my journey there was only one Moroccan passport control officer on board and the line moved slowly – very slowly. In hindsight it appears that those who have made this journey before tended to arrive and board early – helping to avoid the crush of passengers once the the transit is underway. You must also go through Spanish passport control on your return from Tangier. But the Spanish control is done after disembarking from the ferry, there are more control officers, and the process is completed quickly.
I had arranged for a guide since this was my first time in Tangier and my time would be quite limited. In the past I have found that a knowledgable local guide can really help make efficient use of limited time in such circumstances. With the help of the great staff at my hotel in Marbella, The Marbella Heights Boutique Hotel, I had arranged for Aziz to be my personal guide in Tangier for the day. We had corresponded via e-mails and agreed upon fees and itinerary. I was therefore a bit puzzled when I spoke with other passengers on the ferry and learned that they too were planning to have Aziz as their guide. I really was concerned there may have been some type of misunderstanding and that I was going to end up in a large tour group – not my idea of a good time I must say.
Disembarking from the ferry in Tangier I spied a distinguished looking gentleman in a light weight, flowing black kaftan who was holding a card with my name on it. I greeted him and he introduced himself as Mousad, saying that he would be my guide for the day. He explained that Aziz runs a guide business and makes the arrangements but that the actual “guiding” is done by others. Seems Aziz is the business mind behind a guide service that employs a large number of individuals who serve as guides according to the demand on any given day.
As I walked out of the port area with Mousad he paused for a moment to introduce me to “the real Aziz” who was walking toward the ferry. Aziz, who is a bright and affable guy, greeted me warmly and wished me a good day in his city of Tangier. After a brief pause for a photo, he was off again, heading toward the ferry – I can only assume to greet and welcome his many other clients.
Mousad proved to be an excellent guide for my day in Tangier. Polite, considerate, well connected within the city, he escorted me through the various areas and sites for which Tangier is known As we traveled, by car as well as by foot, he offered his own insights and thoughts as well as the standard “guide speak” history and background on the area.
During the day we covered a lot of ground and visited some fascinating locations. Let me share with you a visual taste of what I experienced during my Tangier Day Trip
Explored the Caves of Hercules on the Atlantic Coast – the reputed location where Hercules rested after completing his twelve feats.
Sampled Mint Tea – an iconic Moroccan beverage -enjoyed at one of many cafes in the city. I stopped by the famous Cafe Baba. This is the cafe where folks like the Rolling Stones and Jack Kerouac used to hang out. More recently Anthony Bourdain discovered that everyone he met at his Cafe Baba table smoked hash. And yes – there was a certain edgy smoke in the air during my mid-day visit as well.
Visited the many shops and markets of Tangier – which offer everything and anything – sometimes all in one shop and sometimes in specialized markets or market stalls.
Wandered the narrow and winding streets of the Kasbah and Medina – spending a bit of time on my own, sans guide, and tried not to get lost.
Enjoyed the colorful and friendly people and the culture of Morocco –
By 5:00 PM I arrived back at the ferry port, my Tangier Day Trip complete. It was a very pleasant day. A chance to set foot briefly on the continent of Africa and to get a quick taste of Morocco. I hope to return soon to travel further into the country and experience all that it has to offer.
Point of Clarification: While, as it turned out, Aziz was not my personal guide, the arrangements he made and the guide he provided were excellent. Everything was well organized and provided in a very competent and professional manner. He provides a very good service at a very reasonable rate. I would not hesitate to recommend Aziz who can be contacted directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org. His website: www.tangierprivateguide.com.
Visit Tangier ………….. and Enjoy The Adventure!