Maybe the sea is dangerous or cold in this northern coast, maybe the lack of infra-structures or the hard access keep people away, but the very nice beach of this small village near Tangier (with bad name in Portuguese history...), seems to deserve another kind of human presence.
Was it a bad day?
Part of our tour from Spain to Tangier involved a visit to the free Forbes Museum of Military Miniatures. It was very interesting, but hard to take pictures because of the glare of the glass cases.
Malcolm Forbes, who was an American publisher (1919-1990) of Forbes magazine and very quotable guy* bought the Mendoub Palace in 1970. In 1978, he housed his collection of military miniatures in this palace. He started the collection when he was a child.
"Today, the collection contains over 120 000 miniatures, arranged to feature famous battles of history, and was bequeathed to the city of Tangier."
There are also nice gardens with view over the surrounding country. Some of the people on the tour didn't even go into the palace - they just wandered around and looked at the view.
10-5, closed Tuesdays
Although it was not clear from the above quote, Forbes left the BUILDING (the Mendoub Palace) to Tangier and not the military miniatures. The miniatures were sold "..at Christie's New York's December 1997 record-breaking $739,608 sale of the Forbes Museum of Military Miniatures at the Palais Mendoub in Tangier, Morocco (following the death in 1990 of mega-collector Forbes)." One of the buyers was a collector in Broward Co. FL who bought one of the British Regiments from that collection.
*Some of the things he said or wrote:
"Making mistakes is human ...
repeating 'em is too. "
"Diamonds are nothing more than chunks
of coal that stuck to their jobs. "
The Bay of Tangier stretches from the port to Cap Malabata. The bay is considered one the most beautiful with its lovely beaches and popular seaside resorts and hotels. Avenue d-Espagne runs parallel along the bay.
At the southern end of Cape Spartel is the Grottes d’Hercule which are subterranean tides hidden by the high tides. Greek mythology has it that the limestone caves were founded by Hercules after achieving (or beginning .. depending on who you believe) his Twelve Labours. If you want to visit the caves, then late afternoon is a good time.
From Tangier you travel the road leading through the La Montagne area to Cap Spartel, sometimes termed the most north-westerly point of Africa, but that seems to be debateable. The cape has had many names including Cape of the Vines and Cape Ampelusium. The promontory stands at the entrance of the Strait of Gibraltar at some 1,000 feet above the sea.
Just around 30 km from Tangier is this tourist resort with a beautiful long beach. Historically has been occupied by Spanish and Portuguese people.
It is like any Mediterranean village, all white and blue houses and relaxed.
The best way to go is through a Grand Taxi, prices can vary of the way you negotiate the price (another tip in warnings!)
Morocco is seperated from Europe by the Straits of Gibraltar, 14 - 44 km wide. Driving paralel to the rocky, northern coast of Morocco, from Tangier towards Cape Spartel, I took a short gravel road northwards and stopped to see European coast from Africa. But the visibility was too short that day :-(.
Well, I saw Morocco for the first time in 1994, first from Sierra Nevada mountains in Spain, then from Gibraltar. I saw Europe from Monte Hacho summit in Ceuta, Spanish enclave in northern Africa.
A kind of my travel related addiction is to visit the most northern, southern etc. points of a continent or a country.
So, I simply had to drive to the Cape Spartel which is the most northwestern point of African continent. And I wasn't dissapointed. I enjoyed spectacular views over the Atlantic Ocean and rocky coast. Well, it's a pity that visibility was too low to see Europe.
From Grand Socco in Tangier I followed the direction signs to Cap Spartel (road S701) 21 km, westwards and I found that the most northwestern point of Africa a very relaxing and worth a short visit place. There is a large parking lot at the end which was almost empty when I arrived.
What is there?
- a restaurant when I ate early supper (details in a restaurant tip),
- the lighthouse put among palm trees which was close for visitors (on my picture),
- street stalls with local craft to buy (details in my shopping tip)
- spectacular views over the Atlantic Ocean, the Straits of Gibraltar and Europe (the next tip).
There is a short trail/path carved in rocks above high Atlantic cliffs by the Hercule Cave (23 km west of Tangier) which ends with flat viewing platform where a few chairs are put. The cliffs look amazing with the power of the ocean is well heard and seen down in the rocks.
- if you suffer from fear of heights better skip it.
- there is a local guy on the terrace who wants money for the entrance.
I drove 23 km west of Tangier to visit the Hercules Caves (Grottes d'Hercule) which are... a tourist trap. But the area around was fine.
First of all I saw nice rocky formation above the caves. There is a cafe (Cafe Les Grottes) put partly inside the rocks. There is athletic looking guy (Hercules) painted on a rocky wall. There is a souvenir shop and a restroom/toilet put one level below. It's paid to a funny dressed toilet/restroom guard (!).
All minarets of muslim mosques in North Africa are square whereas those, I saw in Turkey, were round. But, I did find this unique in shape, octagonal in lower part minaret somewhere in the Tangier's medina, close to Dar El Makhzen, the former sultanate and governor's palace.
The stone decorative attic on the top of the octagonal part of the minaret looks strange and non-arabic in style as well.
I walked a bit along the Atlantic side of Tangier and I honestly think that it is the most charming part of Tangier although nothing very fancy. The coastline is cliffed and steep there.
There is a street along the cliff with poor, white houses on one side and steep cliffs with polluted beach down on the other side. It's a little bit strange that it's poor quarter of Tangier. In most cities areas adjacent to sea/ocean are rather upclass.
At first I was a bit surprised to see quite many gates put in the middle of the Medina but I shortly realized that the old Arab town was in continous, a bit chaotic growth in the past. Whereas old walls were ruined/demolished to give a space for new houses, many gates crossing streets survived till nowadays. I found this double gate, on my picture, somewhere in the Medina. The gates of Tangier's Medina are usually a little bit neglected.
The pedestrians traffic (add few bicycles and various carts) is usually a bit heavier around the gates. There are always some stores or street stalls with food put close to the gates.
Many off the beaten path areas of the Medina are solely devoted to living. There are plenty of nice houses, painted doors, decorated gates, narrow, one-way passes and rose bushes all around.
Just get lost there like I did! But, for personal safety reasons, don't forget to leave narrow streets of the residential areas of the Medina before it gets dark.