Author: D Homer
Date of Trip: August 2015
The lighthouse is the official point of where the two seas come together. Now here is the only place you will see the large tour companies. But guess what, they don’t have tea, they just get out take a look and get back in and leave. In the restaurant it will be you and a few local people who have stopped there for the same. You will have delicious mint tea and biscuits with home made cheese. It was wonderful, peaceful and cheap about 15E for 4 of us. Don’t be afraid of this tea. It is safe to drink it and it tastes so good. It is 100 times better than the Yak butter tea I had in tibet. My wife ordered me to drink it to as not to offend the monks.
You then move on, into the old part of the city. You are on foot here and it is really not conducive to the large groups because things are so tight and narrow in there. You will see stunning old architecture. The sights, sounds and smells of the markets and traders. Want to try a fresh date or fig, ask your guide first and then give it a try. You will pass bakeries that are still doing things the way it was done 100’s of years ago. You will see the spice market, fish market, etc. Most likely you will see an area where a portion where the newest, of the not yet released, James Bond movie was filmed.
You are soon approaching lunch. As I had mentioned, the guide had a place picked out in which he described it as a “traditional” Moroccan restaurant. To me this sounded alarms as perhaps being a “traditional tourist” restaurant and I wanted nothing to do with it. So as I said, we ended up in a small basic restaurant on the street. It was a place our guide stated he eats at on a regular basis. This place had a basic menu, where items were about 5E each. We ordered meat skewers. We had fries, and fried tomatoes. We added cokes. We watched them cook our meal over charcoal and a propane stove in the front of the restaurant. We sat in the back and watched the street traffic pass as we were waiting for our food to be finished. It was interesting watching them go to a neighboring stall to get our cokes. This was what I like to call a neighborhood restaurant, a place where the local people eat. A place where you as a customer can get the real experience of Tangier, not the fluffy tourist view. You sit and wait for your food, and then when it arrives, you can smell the delicious spices that were used wafting in front of your nose. You wonder, “is it ok to eat?”, then you take a nibble, and then you devour it like it is you last meal. Now this is the way to taste Tangier, not from some stuffy tourist restaurant. Our total bill was 25E for the three of us including the tip. You give them a 50E bill, then you watch them scurry from business to business coming up with the change for you. Then in about 10 minutes later they return with your change. It was a great experience.
Aziz provides a very good tour without all the extra time spent in commercial shops. In fact, this tour will take you to areas, the large operators will not. Why, because you are the only ones in the tour group, it is you and no one else. You pay a little more, but you get a lot in return. If you do not want to go shopping then you tell the tour guide no problem. If you don’t want to go to the restaurant they picked, you tell the tour guide. this is what we did. Our house is full of stuff and we have no more room. So we made up our minds we were not going to purchase souvenirs any more. No more carpets, scarfs, jewelry, lamps, perfume, body oil, booze, no more nik-nacs, you name it no more. On a previous trip to Marrakesh, about 10 years ago we purchased carpets and kinds of stuff. I personally carried those carpets home with me because I did not want to pay the DHL charges. When we downsized from a house to an apartment we kept the carpets but everything else went to Goodwill.
No more tourist restaurants. We make an effort to avoid these. When our tour guide advised us our lunch would be about 20E in Tangier, I said are you kidding, no way. I told him we wanted to go to a local place off the beaten path, that he eats at, and that is where we went. Total lunch 25E for 3 people, not 60E. So there you go, with a tour operator like that you are flexible in making changes to how you want it. You are directly hiring him for you and an no one else. If you are an experience traveler than a private tour makes sense. If you are a new traveler with deep pockets, you don’t care how much DHL charges you to ship your stuff back to the USA, want to spend time shopping, and not to concerned about personalized service, then you might consider the large group tours.
If shopping is what you want to do, then tell your guide. In fact if this is your first visit to this part of the world, I encourage you to do some shopping and find something nice for your home. A couple of the most prominent items are carpets, ceramics, and jewelry. I have bought a lot of carpets. Buying them is really quite easy. Getting them home is more difficult. These carpet shops are very adept of getting a huge carpet folded into a very small package. Small enough you can either carry it on, or check it as baggage. If you are going to check it, I would suggest purchasing an inexpensive duffle bag and placing your carpets in there. “Out of sight, out of mind”, will help prevent them from being lost in baggage processing. You can always use DHL, but you will spend about $300-400 for the service. It is a very good service. However, I am the best at being a cheapo-charlie, and I always try to do it the cheapest way possible no mater how much it might inconvenience me. I have carried or checked carpets from Thailand, Nepal, Tibet, Morocco and Egypt. I carried a 14 x 10 carpet from Egypt that is now the show piece of my home.
Purchasing a carpet, do some homework at your local carpet shop or on the internet. Learn something about them. When you get there, offer 10% of the asking price. They may laugh incessantly or maybe even act angry. If they know you are a serious buyer they will not walk away. If you offer them 50% of their asking price, you have already paid to much. Use your own calculator. Make sure you under stand the currency exchange rates. In Marrakesh they asked $16000 for 2 antique carpets I wanted. I left paying about $2400. These were 8×10 carpets. In Egypt I paid $1600 for 2 carpets, they wanted about $10,000.00 for. That particular negotiation took 2 days. Of course, the easiest way to buy carpets is going down to the local carpet store in Scottsdale and purchase one there. Heck, they will probably deliver it for you and you will never have to deal with DHL. But how cool is it to be able to say, you personally purchased that carpet in Tangier, Morocco, Africa! I guarantee you, there will not be many people you know who will be in the club.
Don’t buy jewelry in a large shop. Stop and look where the locals are going to buy jewelry, these are usually the small shops on the street. I spied a few while I was in Tangier. Then if you think you would like to do this, bust your move and go in.
We finished off with Aziz driving us back to the port. Prior to going over our yellow exit immigration form we paid him for the service 79E each. He then walked up up to Immigration and advised us how to get back onto the ferry.
The ferry loaded late and we arrived in Tarifa late. We then boarded the FRS bus back to Algeciras and because we were late we missed the 1900 bus back to Sevilla. We hung out for the 2100 bus and arrived back in Sevilla around 2330 hours. Long day on the return. If you want to spend a little more money then 2 nights in Algeciras would make this the perfect trip!
Feel free to email me with any questions.