A Day Trip to Tangiers, Morocco

 

Did you know the closest foreign country to us here in southern Spain is actually Morocco?  Though we can’t quite see Morocco from where we are located, if we drive a few hours west, we get to the point where the Straits of Gibraltar are most narrow, and it is actually possible to see the coast of the African continent with the naked eye.  My brother came to visit us for the first time, and was here for just one quick week.  He was really excited about the idea of going to Morocco, and setting foot on the African continent for the first time, so we booked a day trip with a tour guide for all six of us.IMG_8092 (2)Though we usually like to do our own thing when traveling, researching and visiting places on our own, we decided the easiest way to visit Tangiers was to book a guided day tour. The tours are actually pretty affordable, and include everything from the ferry tickets to transportation, entrance fees, a guide and driver.

As soon as the boys got out of school on Friday afternoon, we hopped in the car for the three hour drive to Tarifa, Spain, where the ferry would leave from the next morning.  When we got to Tarifa, the first thing we noticed was how windy it was!  Located on the very southern tip of the European continent, it is known for its strong winds (and as a result, it is a very popular place for windsurfing!).  We spent a little time walking around Tarifa Friday night before our trip to Morocco the next morning.

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Standing at the southern point of the European continent.  One side was the Atlantic Ocean and the other was the Mediterranean Sea.

Early Saturday morning we walked from our Airbnb to the Tarifa ferry port for our 9am ferry ride.  The ride took just under an hour and we arrived in Tangiers, Morocco at…9am! (Tangiers is on GMT, while Spain is an hour ahead – but easy come, easy go, we will lose that hour on the way home!).  The ferry ride was smooth. They had a snack bar, but we just sat in seats around a table during our hour crossing.

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Watching Tarifa come into sight

Our guide was at the ferry port to pick us up and led us to a mini-bus that would be the transportation for the six of us, plus our driver and guide, for the day.

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In the spacious, air-conditioned coach for just the six of us, plus our guide and the driver.

Camel Riding on the Beach

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Our first stop was the beach for a ride on camels.  There were a few spots along our drive where we saw camels and their owners waiting for tourists to come, but our guide assured us he knew the best spot, and in fact it seemed to be a good spot because even though the camels were waiting near the side of the road, their owners took them down a steep hill to beach where we could ride next to the water.

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My brother and A in a selfie. Since C never takes any photos, it was nice to have someone else taking pictures besides me on this trip!

We all rode on our own camels except for me and N, because he was too small to ride by himself, but also he never would have agreed to ride alone anyway, as he was extremely skeptical about riding at all.

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The worst part was when the camels went from sitting to standing, since they leaned forward as they got up on their back legs first.  N was screaming the whole way up.

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Cape Spartel

IMG_1092 (3).JPGCap Spartel stands above the entrance to the Straits of Gibraltar, with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Mediterranean on the other.  It is also the most northwest point of the African mainland, and an important lighthouse was built on the site, though it is no longer used as a lighthouse.IMG_8128 (2).JPGWe just made a quick stop at Cap Spartel to see the lighthouse and look at the sea far below.IMG_8130 (2)

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Hercules Cave

The Cave of Hercules is located under Cap Sartel and is famous for a few things. First, its entrance to the sea famous for being in the shape of Africa.IMG_8114 (2).JPGSecond, the cave itself has been enlarged by many years of Berber people coming and cutting millstones from its walls, giving the cave a fascinating look.IMG_8115 (2).JPG

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Finally, its known for the folklore surrounding the cave.  One myth says that the cave is bottomless and  it runs under the sea, leading to Gibraltar, which is how the Barbary monkeys got to Gibraltar.  Other myths are (of course, given its name) related to Hercules and that this was a resting spot for him before doing the 11th of his 12 labors.

Lunch

After our first three stops, which were located close to each other to the West of Tangiers, we headed into town and went to the restaurant our guide arranged for our lunch.IMG_8181 (2).JPGOnce we got into the town, we started to see glimpses of the beautiful Islamic architecture, and happily, our lunch stop was no exception.IMG_8183 (2)

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We were seated at the top level of the restaurant, which had nice views over the nearby port

We paid for lunch in advance with our tour guide, so we just had the choice of two moroccan-style chicken dishes, to go along with salads, bread, drinks and dessert.  They did, however, prepare plain chicken kebabs for the two little (picky) guys.IMG_8195 (2)

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Super yummy! I had already taken a few bites before taking the picture.

Old Medina Tour

IMG_8205 (2).JPGAfter lunch, we headed into the Old Medina area of town.  Our tour guide was a local, growing up in the medina, and clearly knew many people. It was nice to have him there, to show us all the local places, and because I know we would have gotten lost on our own!  It was neat to see where they had community ovens, and A’s favorite spot was the community PlayStation room!  IMG_2277 (2)

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IMG_8222 (2)Our guide took us through the shopping area, passing us by more “touristy” places until he got to the place he recommended we get our souvenirs.IMG_8227 (2).JPGWe even went through markets and all sorts of areas where people were living their everyday life.IMG_8232 (3)

IMG_8235 (2)After we meandered our way through the Old Medina, we headed back to the port and prepared to take the 4pm ferry back to Tarifa.  An hour later (though at 6pm), we were back on Spanish soil, having fully enjoyed our day on a new continent! (well for the boys and my brother – C and I had been there almost 20 years earlier).  It was a fun day, and very stress-free easy way to travel. I will probably be back to spending lots of time researching and planning our next trips, but it was easy to take a break for this day and leave it to the experts!

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Back in Tarifa, L has made a headband by tying two of their souvenir camels together 🙂

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