Tangier, Morocco

Tangier, Morocco

Note that my trips are paid for by me, myself, and I, so the opinions are my own and I'm not being sponsored by anyone. Random fun fact: Morocco was the first country to recognize an independent U.S. in 1777. Also, almost no places in Tangier accept credit cards and it's way cheaper to get a sim card in the city as opposed to the airport.

Anthony Bourdain featured Tangier on an episode of Parts Unknown. My experience at dinner during my time there mirrors the image I had of Tangier based on that episode. I went to a hole in the wall Japanese restaurant, and the owner/chef/server was from Japan. Another customer was from the Netherlands and spoke Japanese. The owner was discussing the history of Jews in Morocco to his prep cook who was sub Saharan African. Tangier has been a melting pot for some time, attracting international jet setters and literati.

Cafe Baba Tangier Anthony Bourdain Cafe Baba Tangier
Cafe Baba. I spoke with the owner who met Anthony Bourdain. Many famous people including The Rolling Stones frequented this cafe. It even has a photo of Keith Richards smoking hash inside the cafe.

From Henri Matisse and Paul Bowles to The Rolling Stones, the artistically inclined have flocked to Tangier. Other notable writers who spent time in the city include: Gertrude Stein, Tennessee Williams, Patricia Highsmith, Jack Kerouac, Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, and William Burroughs. It is rumored that Sharif from the famous song by The Clash (apparently written at a hotel in Tangier) was an actual person: A Tangier local who didn't like going up and down the hill to the kasbah (fort). Also, Paul Bowles, who lived 52 of his 88 years in Tangier, was commissioned by the U.S. government to travel through Morocco recording its different types of music. In the end he had over 250 selections, which is housed in the Library of Congress.

Henri Matisse Room 35 Hotel Villa de France Tangier
Henri Matisse painted Landscape viewed from a window, Tangiers, in 1912 (replica painting in the middle). The view was from this hotel room window in room 35 of the Hotel Villa de France. The room, with the exception of the bathroom, has been unchanged since its famous guest.

Tangier is much smaller than Marrakesh, so I was able to see all of the tourist attractions in three days by foot. Also, the airport is not nearly as crazy and it was no problem arriving 1.5 hours before my flight. You need to arrive at least three hours before your flight at Marrakesh's airport. You can also visit Tangier by boat from Spain, which takes one hour.

I currently live in Spain and have lived in Latin America, so I speak a little Spanish. The cool (and convenient) thing about Tangier is that a lot of people speak Spanish and/or English. Given its strategic location, Tangier was occupied by many countries including Spain.

Spanish Section Tangier
Spanish Section

I took a day trip with Xauen Tours to Chefchaouen (The Blue City) and Tetouan (The White City). Chefchaouen is a day trip (perhaps more for hiking aficionados). It was pleasant, but felt touristy. There are multiple theories of the origin of blue houses in the city. One is that Chefchaouen was home to many Jews and blue is a sacred color in Judaism, so Jewish residents painted their homes blue and non Jewish residents followed. 

Tetouan felt more like a lived in city. There is an old Spanish military base and the symbol of Franco still has a home on one building located in downtown Tetouan. All remnants of Franco have been erased from public spaces in Spain, so I was surprised to see Franco's symbol in Tetouan given the checkered history of the Franco period in Morocco.

Chefchaouen Morocco Cats Chefchaouen Morocco Cats
There were many friendly cats in Chefchaouen

What to wear in a conservative country?

Morocco is a Muslim country, but I find it to be comparatively liberal. However, I'm a strong believer in respecting the customs and cultures of the places where I live and travel. I lived in Qatar for two years, so I am very familiar with what is appropriate dress. To put it simply, as long as your shoulders and knees are covered, and, of course, you are showing no cleavage, you are fine. This is why I brought the Kristen Full Coverage Tank Top, which has a neckline high enough to guarantee that I won't offend the local culture.

The Kristen Full Coverage Tank in Tangier Morocco
Me in front of the Bab Al Bahr wearing the Kristen Full Coverage Tank, which ensures that no cleavage is visible. You can see a sliver of the tank underneath.

@curvycurlyjourneys Traveling to a Muslim country? Watch for tips on what to wear. #modestfashion #travelfashion #femaletraveler #solofemaletraveler #morocco #whattowear #whattowearinamuslimcountry ♬ OUALID JINI - OUALIDOFFICIAL

Things to do in Tangier

Musée la Kasbah des cultures méditerranéennes
Museum of Contemporary Art
Ibn Batouta Museum
Grave site of Ibn Batouta
Hotel Villa de France to view Matisse's room (it's free, but tip the bellhop)
American Legation Museum
Jewish Cemetary
Nahon Synagogue
Day trips to Chefchaouen and Tetouan

Places to eat in Tangier

Hatanaka Kasbah
Cafe Tingis
Cafe Baba (be sure to order before taking photos)
Palais Zahia (come hungry, order the pastilla)
Restaurant Le Saveur De Poisson
Restaurant Ahlen

Where I stayed in Tangier

Riad Tingis (highly recommended)

Tangier Cats
Morocco is full of well cared for, friendly cats

Cats in Chefchaouen

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