The medina (Arab old town) of Tangier is quite large. At first I stayed on main, touristy, commercial streets full of suques (Arab style shops/stores) which served the tourist traffic.
But surely I had to take off the beaten paths of the medina and get lost :-). First, I was looking for real local handicraft there but I didn't find any. No wonder, there were no visitors there except just me and my wife. Instead, I did find empty, mostly narrow streets with white, or dirty white, a bit neglected houses put along streets with no order. Add unbelievable chaos of different electrical or telephone wires and roof TV antennas (very few satelite).
The entire western coastline is dotted with beautiful white sandy beaches such as this one. The best thing is that most of them are totally deserted, so if you had your own transport, you could easily find your very own private cove for the day.
The westernmost point of Morocco, a lighthouse marks the spot. As far as you can see to the west, there is ocean. We were told by the guide that this is the furthest point west in Mediterranean Africa.
The area around Hercules Cave is quite commercialised, there was even a hat salesman inside the cave entrance.
Inside the cave, you wander down some steps and you can look out at the ocean through a ragged hole in the rock which the guide will tell you looks like a map of Africa.
This is a difficult one, If you are visiting Morocco on a typical package holiday, I would say Tangier itself seems to be off the usual tourist beaten path. Although it does seem very popular with day trippers from Spain.
Maybe St Andrews Church which is mentioned in an above tip and also in my "Palin Moment" tip , would be off most day trippers beaten path.
Tangier provides an opportunity to see the sun rising over the Mediterranean and then, if you drive west along the coast during the day, you’ll view the sun setting into the Atlantic at dusk.
Near Tangier, there are two promontories projecting into the waters of the two great waterways of northwestern Africa. Cape Malabata, a windswept and exposed beach area about 6 miles east from Tangier looks across the Mediterranean Sea towards the rising sun. Plan your day so you visit this area in the glow of the pre-dawn when sky and sea melt together in one blue luminescence. There is a Medieval looking castle at Malabata that was built in the early 20th century. A lighthouse tops it, like Cape Spartel. The area offers unobstructed views across the bay of Tangier to the Gibraltar Straits.
After sunrise, drive west and visit Tangier and then in the mid-afternoon head west to Cape Spartel. Stop and visit the Caves of Hercules that have been in use since prehistoric times. Have a cold drink and lunch in one of the beachside shops along the way. Maybe take a swim along the golden sand beaches. Arrive at Cape Spartel in the late afternoon, an hour before sundown.
Visit the lighthouse. Look over the coast of Africa across the sea to the European coastline of a different continent. Marvel at the rugged coastline with its pounding surf and blue waters. Admire the twisted, tenacious trees struggling to survive against the elements. Take your photograph with one of the donkeys nearby. Spend some time browsing the shops that have been setup along the roadway. Use your time to your best interests as the day grows long and the sun begins to sink into the Atlantic.
Cape Spartel provides great views of the Atlantic Ocean and the setting sun. You will be glad that you have done this little trek when you are standing on the cliffs at Cape Sparel in the dusk, and the horizon is pink and blue and yellow, and the sparse native vegetation is being bathed in a golden twilight.
It will be a moment of your life to be savored forever.
No matter where I go in the world, there is always a Coca Cola sign and usually a Kodak sign to be seen.
Only 43 consumer product brands ring up annual sales of more than US$1 billion each and can be considered truly global, according to a study released in 2001 by AC Nielsen. The category with the most billion-dollar brands was beverages. The total Coca-Cola brand was number one among beverages at well over US$15 billion in sales, with its two sub-brands, Coke and Diet Coke, being billion dollar brands in their own right. Pepsi Cola and its associated sub-brands, Pepsi and Diet Pepsi (including Pepsi Light, Pepsi Max and Pepsi One), ranked as the number two beverage.
I suspect that Kodak will soon be fading off my traveling radar screen. With digital photography becoming more and more popular, it is a company that seems to be trying to reinvent itself and only time will tell if it is successful.
It seems that one of the big tourist things to do in Morocco (and other desert prone countries) is to ride a camel. I had already done so years before in Egypt so I felt no urge to do it again. But a number of the folks on my tour bus opted for that unique experience.
One of the reasons I think tourists like camels so much is their appearance. They have long eyelashes and a split lip that curves up, and a humped back, so that they resemble stuffed toys. But more than that, there is the exoticness of riding a beast seldom encountered in ones normal life. However, one soon learns that a camel’s gait throws the rider forwards and backwards, making for a really bumpy ride. One could almost get seasick from the swaying.
If you do take a ride, or just mount one for a photograph, let your mind’s eye imagine that you are riding with Lawrence of Arabia and his band on the way to some exotic desert oasis. By the way, did you know that Lawrence of Arabia hated camels?
But take to heart a word of warning. Camels are typically fleas infested so don’t be surprised when you find fleas on your person after even a short excursion on a camel.
If you decide you still want to take a ride, and you have some insect repellant with you, spray your pants or jeans or outer clothing before you mount up. That might discourage the fleas from changing residence.
It appears that wild goats are among the common fauna that you'll find near the seacoast as well as in the hills surrounding Tangier.
After the stop at Cape Spartel and on the way to a rest stop, these wild goats were feeding near the Caves of Hercules.
Seemed to be a good photographic opportunity to me.
A short five-minute walk south from the Caves of Hercules takes you to the ancient Roman site of Cotta, a small area of stone ruins just above the beach. The archeological excavations have revealed several wall sections and the layout of a Roman town, probably dating from the 2nd and 3rd centuries.
A guide will probably soon appear to show you around this mixture of villa and Roman industrial complex, with its baths, temples, shrine, oil press and central courtyard lined with vats that were used for processing oil and the other products of the town.
Like many of the classical sites on the Moroccan coast, Cotta specialized in the manufacture of the rancid sauce made from fish guts called Garum (anchovy paste) that was beloved of the Romans.
According to Greek mythology, 4,500 years ago Hercules found rest here after finishing his Twelve Labors. These caves, whose mouth opens onto the Atlantic and are flooded at high tide, are partly natural and partly manmade caverns.
When I visited the caves the tide was high and we couldn’t get into them.
But these large holes in the ground, on the hillsides, have water gushing up through them when the tide comes in. It’s thought that some ancient culture found the limestone useful and carved millstones out of the solid rock causing, over many years, caves to form as a result. If that is true you will wonder how they could do it. And you’ll realize what hard work that would have been for them with the crude tools at their disposal.
At low tide, the significant photographic opportunity found here is the cave's seaward opening that frames the stunning blue of the ocean and sky and resembles a reverse silhouette of Africa. Also notable is a space of sea whose clear depths shift with the sea’s slow movement from the deep green of emerald to all the colors of the opal while in the sky above circles flocks of seagulls - noisy and insolent. Swimmers need to be cautious here as the water currents, just offshore, can be very strong and rather dangerous for weak swimmers. Stick to sunbathing if you're not sure.
Looking out to sea from the rocks near these caves, your mind’s eye can imagine pirate ships running before the wind in the distance, as it was along this Barbary Coast that the pirates of the region once headquartered.
Some say that these caves were once joined under the sea to St Michael's Caves that provides one theory about how the apes got across to Gibraltar from Africa.
It is also my understanding that these caves were used on a cover of the Led Zeppelin album “Houses of the Holy”, the one with the children climbing the rocks and looking into the pools of water.
Another thing to look for, located about 500 feet (150 m) from the caves of Hercules are the old 2nd and 3rd century Roman ruins of Cotta.
There is a very nice view of the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea off the roadway area adjacent to the Cape Spartel Lighthouse. From here, as well as the lighthouse, you get grand views of Europe on a clear day.
Shown in the picture are just a few of the tourist shops, vendors and local entrepreneurs selling photographic opportunities with their donkeys.
All in all, this was a very nice place to visit.
Once we were done taking pictures of the donkeys we continues along until we reached Cape Spartel, on the Atlantic coast. The lighthouse, 312 ft. above sea level, built in 1864 at the cost of the sultan of Morocco, and maintained at the joint expense of England, France, Italy and Spain, is the only one on the western coast. It is provided with a large fixed intermittent white light for the safety of passing ships. This spot is considered by political convention to be the most northwestern point of Africa and the African intersection of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.
Cape Spartel, famed since antiquity, also contains the Caves of Hercules - for centuries the haunt of the Barbary Corsairs, the savage pirates who were the curse of the Mediterranean.
This is a very nice spot from which to take landscape pictures from along the cliffs as well as views of the Strait of Gibralter from the Cape Spartel lighthouse. You will be able to enjoy the breath-taking view over the Atlantic, onto the Strait of Gibraltar and - weather permitting - onto the Spanish coast – which on a clear day is easily visible from here. This site is very pretty as the windy straits that open onto this extreme promontory of the African continent are covered in rock-roses and cork-oaks.
You will probably only spend 20 or 30 minutes around the lighthouse.
After that you’ll probably want to spend another 15 to 30 minutes bargaining with the vendors who have set up shop in the parking lot. These vendors change all the time but often they will have carved goods, jewelry, leather, caftans and t-shirts to name just a few of their wares.
To get to Cape Spartel the most convenient route is over a zigzag road that passes through the wealthy residential district of Marche aux Boeufs, and along the new mountain road edged with elegant villas. Although there are not many places to get photographic views, it is an area of sumptuous villas and royal palaces. These mansions are quite magnificent with gorgeous gardens, and ornate gates. It is interesting to note that foreigners own many of these villas. The mountain Jebel El Kebir forms the hills upon which this district resides. In the 17th century, this wooded hill area provided cover for the Moors in their battles against the Portuguese and the English. Proceeding west, Jebel El Kebir provides the seaward extremity which forms Cape Spartel, the northwest angle of the African continent.
Beyond this area you continue along through, forested hills covered with a uniquely Mediterranean variety of pine tree that were all planted by volunteers. In the mountains of Morocco there are large forested areas of oak, juniper, cork, cedar, fir and pine. On the south coast there are stands of Argon - unique thorn trees. The fauna includes rabbits, squirrels, gazelle, wild goat, wild boar, panther, baboon, fox, and the horned viper.
Just before reaching the Cape Spartel lighthouse the scenic drive comes upon long golden ocean beaches and the blue Atlantic Ocean. Our tour bus pulled over to the side of the road, while still in the heights, for a glimpse of the beaches and a new resort. Of course the local kids knew that the tours were stopping here so, being the entrepreneurs that they are, they had donkeys out for the tourists to take pictures – and pay them for that privilege of course.
Camera-shy women wearing straw hats and ponchos, the trademark dress of the Jbala people from the Rif Mountains, come to town to sell their vegetables or goats' cheese wrapped in palm fronds. The women wear distinctive straw hats and either walk around shopping or sit on the ground trying to sell their small piles of beetroot, mint, onions, cheese and so on. Some were selling live chickens as well.