I loved Tangier! (Well, I mostly spent my time outside and around the city but I very much enjoyed the area.)
I took the early morning, 5 hour train from Casablanca to Tangier. Since the bar was set so low in Casablanca, I liked Tangier almost immediately due to the lack of street harassment upon arrival.
I can’t go on without mentioning the drivers in Morocco. It is so intense and heart stopping that the only way I can describe it is to quote a friend, “The goal of driving is to not get in an accident, beyond that, anything goes.” And he was not kidding – traffic circles, stops, intersections, pedestrians etc. were more of an obstruction to be navigated than rules to be followed. It made riding on the back of a motorcycle an interesting experience, to say the least!
I originally booked a hostel in one of the downtown areas of the city but a friend realized that I was staying close to their family and called them up to insist I stay with them. They graciously insisted that I stay as well and continued to be wonderful hosts for the duration of my trip.
I had already been in touch with a scuba dive shop before arriving and had booked a dive the day after my arrival. To say my dive was excellent would be an understatement. I had a wonderful, full-day, dive experience with Diving Center Tangier. The waters were calm, visibility wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad either and the dive spot was in this gorgeous little coastal town named Belyounech, about 1.5 hours outside Tangier. Since the weather was perfect we were able to do a shore dive – a first for me. The water was comfortable in a 7mm suit but, as has been my luck, I had troubles with the right amount of weight and being able to easily sink to depth. My helpful instructor and buddy did grab my vest a couple of times and pulled me back down. Overall, it was very enjoyable and the dive shop even had cookies and the best Moroccan Mint tea ready for me after my dive!
My new hosts decided to take an impromptu trip to their summer home in Cabo Negro for the next couple days in order to show me the area. It was indeed a nice town with a relaxed atmosphere. They left the house doors open, greeted all the residents by name and stopped to leisurely chat with strangers.
I even got a lesson on driving a manual car. I only stalled it once…but I don’t think I’d be comfortable driving alone without a few more lessons. It may also help if my instructor and I share a language next time ;) Even with my faulty French, I managed to get by in most places but I have no knowledge of Arabic so that did pose a challenge with those that spoke neither French nor English. Even so, it was a good first lesson.
Monday morning we woke up early in order to cross the border into Spain. There is a small Spanish town connected to Morocco called Ceuta. We went to the beach, walked around and saw some shops. The border crossing on foot was much more involved and tedious than I anticipated – I have always ever gone through passport control in an airport.
The taxis to and from Cabo Negro were a story in themselves. We used four different taxis to get there and three to get back. The taxis charge per seat and one town car could accommodate up to 6 other people, not including the driver – 2 in the front seat and 4 in the back. Of course, you could pay for two fares and have your own seat but most people just squish. Each car would only be going so far and would pile people in for their shared destination and offload at that location where we would have to find another taxi going a little closer to our final destination. Also, people pay the taxi upon entry, not exit. I witnessed a few times that passengers paid when they exited and all other riders in the car subtly signaled impatience with sighs or readjustments or crossed arms.
After returning from the Cabo Negro adventure, I was able to meet another friend-of-a-friend in Tangier and see more of the city that evening and then the following day, we visited Chefchaouen, a.k.a. The Blue City. It was absolutely lovely. Everything was painted in shades of blue, making the stairs and little paths between the buildings look like something out of Wonderland…down the rabbit hole.
I left early that next morning so I didn’t get to see any of the tourist sites in Tangier but not to worry, I do believe I’ll be back!
Next stop – Athens, Greece.