Africa Morocco Tangiers Travel

Tangiers: A City of Contrasts

Standing at Cap Spartel, the spot that marks the official convergence of the Mediterranean and Atlantic, I realised that at some point in time, the Mediterranean must have flowed through my veins. How else could I explain my strong attachment to its temperate waters, its distinctive blue hue and the melting pot of civilisations that surround it?

Tangiers - Where the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Meet

The day tour of Tangiers was already underway. The hydrofoil jaunt from Algeciras in Spain across the Straight of Gibraltar took approximately forty minutes. The view of the Rock of Gibraltar, standing majestically at the entrance to the Mediterranean was just the calming antidote before the bumpy ride.

Once at the border, Moroccan customs formalities were handled as swiftly as these can be when tour groups arrive en masse and line up for entry. The group boarded the air-conditioned bus for a tour that can only be described as a dégustation of this city of contrasts.

Whisked away from the bustling crowds and shown the modern and wealthy parts of Tanja, as it is called in Arabic, the bus snaked it way past the city’s finest residences, private estates and palaces. In the sweltering heat, uniformed security guards stood in front of imposing gates. The fortunate seem to live well yet despite the apparent wealth, the old city in the distance glowed a dusty shade, beckoning towards its heart.

View of Tangiers

The display of modernity didn’t leave me in awe for too long. As the bus descended towards the city, we passed poorer districts with very modest dwellings. A brief stop for a camel ride in a dusty vacant lot was an opportunity to buy souvenirs but seemed like a disguised distraction from reflecting upon the city.

Camel rides and souvenir sellers

The multi-lingual tour guide steered the group towards a café where refreshments and Moroccan pastries were served. Hot tea, sweet, strong and minty is an acquired taste in the heat. Some used the comfort stop to smoke while we swapped camera lenses and changed filters in readiness for the next part of the journey.

The tour guide called “No photography!” as we entered the walls of the Medina. The exploration of the city’s fortified old town on foot took us past sights, sounds and smells that unfolded in a story of its own.

Working up an appetite after walking the Kasbah, lunch was served at Mamounia Palace, a traditional restaurant at the door of the Medina, on the road that links the Grand Socco and Petit Socco. Inside the cooler comforts of an oriental  room with mosaic tiles and ornate archways, live musicians strummed their ouds and played their tablas and flutes. Skewers of Shish Kebab were passed around the table, some diners tucking into the meat with unnecessary apprehension.

TagineThe Tagine soon followed, a Moroccan speciality of slow-cooked stew made of lamb, vegetables, cabbage, chickpeas and exotic spices such as Ras el hanout, cinnamon and cumin and served in the traditional earthenware Tagine pot. Fragrant and tasty, yet in this city of contrasts, Coca Cola was the beverage on offer to wash it down.

Once satiated with more sweets and tea, a leisurely stroll through souvenir shops was at the guide’s discretion. A visit to a traditional herbalist rivalled the comprehensive carpet display with a presentation targeted in various languages. A call to the last chance to buy mementos was made. Unfortunately, no merchant carried a traditional Fez like those worn by the locals and not the imitation hat with visible glue on the fabric.

Back along the shore, I felt the pull of the sea and boarded the hydrofoil back to Puerto Banús. With the North African experience with me, I was once more enchanted with the Mediterranean.

The city of Tangiers

Mamounia Palace Restaurant
6, rue Semmaraine,
Tangiers, Morocco

About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is a drinks writer, author of GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN, SHRUBS & BOTANICAL SODAS and founder/editor of Gourmantic, Cocktails & Bars and The Gourmantic Garden. She has been writing extensively about spirits, cocktails, bars and cocktail gardening in more recent years. She is a spirits and cocktail competition judge, Icons of Whisky Australia nominee, contributor to Diageo Bar Academy, cocktail developer and is named in Australian Bartender Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential List. Her cocktail garden was featured on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia and has won several awards. She is a contributor to Real World Gardener radio program and is featured in several publications including Pip Magazine, Organic Gardener, Australian Bartender and Breathe (UK). Read the full bio here.