Morocco is a country that has grown very near and dear to my heart. I have visited Morocco three times now and I kid you not, every trip is better than the previous one. My first trip to Morocco was for about eight or nine days. I booked a trip last minute to meet some friends because I previous plans fell through and I wanted to take advantage of the time that I had off. During this first trip I flew into Rabat, took a four hour train to Fes, then the next morning I took a bus for about four and a half hours to Chefchaouen where I stayed for a few days then took an eight hour train to Marrakech where I stayed for about four days. This post will specifically be about my second trip to Morocco when I stopped in Tanger for two days before heading to Chefchaouen.
Getting to Tanger: If you are familiar with budget airlines in Europe, you know there are quite a few. My personal favorite which I used quite often when traveling to save money is RyanAir. I book pretty much every trip I go on through them. The airfare roundtrip I believe was about 40 euro and to be quite honest I believe the airfare was much cheaper than that. If you play around with dates and purchase your ticket far enough in advance, you won’t be spending too much money on your airfare which leaves more money for food, excursions and shopping.
Tanger is the northern port of Morocco and has been the gateway between Europe and Africa for quite some time. It’s common to find Spanish speakers in Tanger since it’s so close to Spain. This fact alone helped me quite a bit when traveling to Morocco because I don’t speak Arabic or French, which are the official languages of Morocco.
If you don’t speak Spanish, Arabic or French no need to fret! You will still be able to communicate with people and enjoy your trip. In fact, one of the most memorable communication interactions happened while I was in the Tanger bus station. I had just bought a SIM card for my phone so that I could use my phone while I was there. I mostly use my phone when I travel to use Snapchat and the geotags. Anyways, so I bought the SIM card popped it into my phone and was having some issues activating the card so that the data on my phone would work. I walked up to a counter where a man and a police officer were standing and pointed at my phone and tried to say activate in my best French accent. I received blank stares so I repeated activate in my best French accent a few more times. Not sure why I thought repeating this when I was clearly not being understood was a good idea but I continued. In between laughs and pointing to my phone and pressing buttons to try and get the message across that my data wasn’t working, I was actually quite irritated. Finally a man came by that spoke Spanish and we were in business! After about five quick minutes my SIM card was activated and I could communicate with my family back in the states and use Snapchat. My best advice for dealing with situations like this, is to just remain calm. Getting angry and having an attitude with people because they don’t speak English is a quick way to bring negative energy to your trip and of course you want positive vibes while traveling. Take a deep breath and remember you’re traveling and in a country different from your own.
One thing that I appreciate and love so much about Morocco is how different the culture is. Before traveling to Morocco I had absolutely NO knowledge about Muslims, the religion or the culture. Growing up in America the only thing we are programmed to learn about Muslims is that they are
violent people, terrorists and if you aren’t Muslim they want you dead. When you repeatedly see images of the Twin Towers falling and airplane takeovers by Muslims, extremist at that, you can see how you would subconsciously associate Muslims with violence and make them out to be terrorist. Even the way traditional Muslims dress can be seen as intimidating when you’re used to seeing this style of dressing associated with terrorism. Both men and women dress in traditional clothing covering most of their bodies. Some women even wear a full Burqa covering their entire bodies with the exception of their eyes. I have to admit when I first stepped off the plane and walked out of the airport and saw so many people in Burqas and traditional Muslim clothing I was a bit nervous. I quickly became aware that I was nervous and that I was prejudging people that I have never met and had this prejudgement solely based on what I have seen on tv. My first interaction with a Muslim was a man offering to take me to my hostel and I politely told him my hostel was sending a taxi for me but thanked him anyway. He let me use his cell phone to call my hostel and he spoke with them to make sure they were coming to get me and then waited with me until the taxi came to pick me up. This small gesture was so kind and meant so much to me. In this exact moment I realized just how important it is to travel and that travel really is the best educator. Had I never traveled to Morocco and interacted with Muslims, I could have easily held on to the notion and belief that Muslims are bad people and that I should always automatically associate them with terrorism and violence and be afraid of them.
Tanger, just like most Moroccan cities is enclosed in a Medina, which is basically a huge wall around the city with different entryways and exits. Within the Medina, I kid you not every single street looks the same; small and narrow with buildings or restaurants. It is extremely easy getting lost once inside the Medina. I learned quickly to try my best to find landmarks or something notable so that I could remember where to go to get back to my hostel or to a certain vendor or restaurant. Worst case scenario, you get lost and have to ask a local person how to get to your destination. In any case don’t worry because I guarantee that you will eventually make it back. Also, getting lost always makes for great entertaining stories later on.
Walking around inside the Medina, you can expect to see many different things from vendors selling fruits and vegetables on the streets, to shops with leather goods to places selling furniture and typical Moroccan looking things to shops selling traditional clothing. I could walk around any Medina in Morocco for hours just exploring, visiting all of the shops and spending all of my money. The best thing I’ve found to do when trying to barter and get good deals is to start a small convo with the seller or the shop owner, be friendly and of course DO NOT show much interest in whatever it is you’re trying to buy. If the seller knows that you really want a piece that they have they won’t barter with you too much with lowering the asking price, but if you are nonchalant and are adamant about a lower price more times than not, you will walk away with a good deal! I always, ALWAYS say I want the Berber price not the tourist price. Berbers are the descendants of the pre-Arab inhabitants of North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mali, Egypt, Libya, Niger and Mauritania). I can honestly say I have never paid full price for anything I bought in Morocco. I will barter to the death of me before I pay full price, because most times the full price is a rip off. But do keep in mind that the official currency of Morocco is the Dirham. 1Euro is about 10 Dirham and 1USD is about 9 Dirham.
Another great place to go while in Tanger is to the Kasbah, which is the higher part of the Medina. From the Kasbah you can see out onto Tanger and have a great view of the water. There is a cafe where you can sit on the rooftop and enjoy a nice coffee or a Moroccan tea. Moroccan tea is actually one of my favorites and I drink it nonstop whenever I go to Morocco. Moroccan tea is basically just mint tea with some sugar.
If you are headed to Morocco, I would definitely recommend stopping in Tanger. You don’t need more than two days in Tanger, maximum I would stay is for 3 days. I hope that you will visit Morocco and fall in love with the country like I have.