Often visible from our coast and tantalisingly close yet Morocco is a totally different country, a different continent, with an atmosphere that can only be described as, well, different. Many people are unjustifiably put off this short journey by the reported difficulties other people have had. A day trip to Tangiers from Algeciras or Tariffa, with an organised tour, is a good way to decide whether you would like to be more adventurous.
Tangier has an atmosphere all its own. It is a mixture of seedy skulduggery, international intrigue, averted eyes and faded elegance. You can still, if you wish, purchase marijuana in bulk, grown in the foothills of the Riff mountains, or single cigarettes from a street trader.
For more legitimate purchases Tangier has one of the most shopper friendly Medinas in Morocco. Friendly because it is small and built on one side of a hill. It is very difficult to get lost, head either uphill or downhill and you will emerge from one of the gates but not before you have been assaulted on all sides by sounds and sights you will not see in Europe. Each souk specialises in one type of produce, fresh vegetables, spices, meat, though not pork, poultry, patisseries, bread, leather goods, silver and so on. The contents of small storerooms spill out into the narrow streets where the vendor sits on his haunches waiting for the next victim to wander into his web. It is all good natured.
The vendors actually understand the word ‘No’. You may even find yourself the butt of a joke. ‘See you later’ you say to a merchant who has heard it all before and takes bets with his neighbours. On your return he will act surprised. Not as surprised as his neighbours though if he pays out.
Things to see and places to eat
Overlooking the Medina is the old palace, the Kasbah, now a museum that is doing its best and still worth a visit. Do not expect any information in English. Outside the Medina the squares and streets are obviously French and Spanish colonial. There is the obligatory Café Paris in the Place de France. There is an English Tea House on Boulevard Pasteur, there are restaurants catering for Belgians, Portuguese, French, Americans and Germans, every nationality seems to have left its mark here and all serve mint tea. You have to sit at a pavement café table, watching the world go by, to fully appreciate this beverage. The retired locals, men only naturally, can spend an entire morning over one cup, putting their world to rights. Some drink the black, thick, syrupy, flavoursome but gritty coffee that arrives in a thimble glass that is an acquired taste. Alcohol is not freely available except in the hotels and at the beach side restaurants and the very occasional expat bar.
The daring can eat at the many roadside kiosks or small cafés. Typically, the food is Moroccan and inexpensive. Typically, too the owner will speak enough English to get by if your French is not up to scratch. Nothing is too much trouble, but the general poverty shows. One establishment may well not have all that is on the menu so your meal and drinks may arrive from all over the street, it is all part of the show.
Holiday property rentals in Morocco
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