Elsewhere in old Sidi Ifni
Aside from the main buildings described in other tips, Sidi Ifni has several other beautiful buildings in various states of dilapidation, and it is worth just having a wander through some of the less touristy streets. You'll come across the occasional little square or elegant stairway, colourful fountains or tiled benches, hinting at the town's not so distant Spanish history. You'll also come across the occasional sweeping view of the town's newer sections on the other side of a shallow ravine, the mountain behind shrouded in mist.
The new port and south beach
A tarmac road winds its way down the cliffs some distance south of the town, but you can reach the port by clambering through the ruins of the old Spanish port as described in the tip above. However, once there, you need a reason to enter the actual harbour and look at the boats, a shame as it was a busy little place with very colourful fishing boats and I would have loved to have gone in to take some photos. A crowd of locals hung around by the checkpoint, I'm guessing looking for a day's work. Down on the beach, cross the dunes and patches of wet sand (quicksand?), and you can clamber up onto the breakwater for a view of the harbour and a closer look at the odd little structures out to sea. The view back to Sidi Ifni is quite a sight too, not really a beautiful view, but a sort of wild remote coastal view nonetheless. You can walk back into town along the beach, and there are several precarious paths up the cliffs if you get caught out by the tide too.
Old Port and Cablecar
On my first night, as the sun was setting, I headed down to the beach for some "red sky at night" shots, and in the distance, caught sight of a strange tower marooned out to sea to the south, and wondered what on earth it could be. It turned out to be the remains of the Spanish port. Due to rough seas, ships weren't able to come too close to shore, so an offshore port was constructed, goods and passengers transported to land by a sort of cable car. A very odd sight it must have been, but sadly it is no longer in use, rusting away about a couple of miles to the south of Sidi Ifni.
Being something of a curious cat, I decided to investigate, and set off through town rather than along the beach as the tide was in. A long road through a new residential district ran alongside a wide empty space, which seemed an odd thing to leave empty...well, further along, I discovered why. this used to be Sidi Ifni's airstrip, a tiny terminal building still standing on the inland side. Nowadays, it seems to be used as an extension of the town's souq on busy days, and a place to parade at night (a slightly strange thing to do, when you've got a seaside promenade, but this is a strange town).
The road ends abruptly, and you have to carry on across scrubland for another half mile or so, towards the coastguard's little hut (watch out for the dogs). Clamber down a rocky slope, and eventually you'll find the cable car station, now completely deserted, save for a family living in a shack at the bottom. It's an unusual place, and I got the feeling I shouldn't really have been there, but nobody waved me away. Offshore, a concrete tower which used to support the cablecar, and the port island, almost reachable at low tide probably. A path continues down to a scrappy bit of beach and the newly built harbour.
At low tide, it is hardly the best beach in the world, just a very narrow strip of sand with rocks and pebbles at the back, a long line of caravans and campervans wedged between this and the cliffs. But once the tide goes out, you're left with a wide, wild and for the most part deserted sandy beach stretching for miles in both directions. The wind and the wet sand don't really encourage sunbathing, and instead this is more of a surfing beach, with a surf school just at the bottom of the steps. The day I arrived in town, there was even a surfing competition drawing to a close, attracting quite a crowd to the medal ceremony and beach party.
If the tide is out and it happens to be a nice day, you can spend a good half day wandering up and down the beach. I walked north to a little beachside tomb, unfortunately surrounded by piles of litter, and carried on to the headland, from where there were fantastic views of Sidi Ifni and some interesting rockpools to clamber around. Further north, more isolated beaches were visible, but with the tide on the turn, I didn't fancy getting cut off, as there didn't seem to be any obvious paths up the steep cliffs.
Art Deco Mosque
Probably my favourite building in Sidi Ifni was this little mosque, whitewashed with blue patterns on its minaret. Mosques are off-limits to non-Muslims, so I have no idea if the inside is as special as the outside, but it must have been wash day when I took my photos, as the prayer mats were hanging out to dry from an upstairs window.
Hotel Suerte Loca
It seems odd to include a hotel that I didn't even stay at as one of my tips, but the Suerte Loca is a local institution in such a distinctive blue and white building, it would be even odder not to include it. Not just a hotel, this place has a very good cafe and restaurant, popular with tourists as well as locals, and the owners are very friendly to guests and visitors alike. You can't really miss it...it's next door to the ship-shaped building, and everyone in town knows it.
I thought this was a mosque at first, as it looks just like a minaret. But no...it is a lighthouse, and a very photogenic one at that! Two guys had clambered up the tower and were in the process of painting the lighthouse white, but as the sun began to set, what they'd painted took on a golden hue. You can't enter the lighthouse, but you can walk around either side...on one side is a residential courtyard with a few benches overlooking the sea, and on the other there's a litter-strewn path leading down to the beach and the port.
Building shaped like a Ship
At the bottom of the clifftop walk, there's a very odd building in the shape of a ship, its stern pointing out to sea with portholes for windows. Under Spanish rule, this used to be the naval secretariat, but is now derelict...the only signs of life were some wetsuits hanging off a washing line attached to the flagpole, hinting that this might be an unofficial campsite for surfers. One day I'm sure this will be renovated into a hotel or a restaurant or something...
Nightlife in Sidi Ifni is very laid back, and the most popular thing to do seems to be walk up and down the walkway from the Spanish Consulate to the building shaped like a ship. During the day, it's a quiet and windblown walk, with a couple of cafes spilling out onto the promenade, but late afternoon people begin to congregate in small groups to sit on the walls and steps, chat, smoke, flirt and people watch. I'm guessing a lot of the promenade was built by the Spanish, as there are some stairways decorated with coloured tiles, unfortunately neglected, broken and rubbish strewn now, but the rest of the promenade is a very pleasant place to walk and admire the views of the beach down below.
Law Courts/Former Church
This is now the town's courthouse, so you can't go inside, which is a shame, as it used to be a church...easily spotted by its square belltower. I'm not sure if I was supposed to photograph this building or not, but nobody came out and told me off, so I assume its fine...
It might be Spanish, which isn't unusual in Sidi Ifni, but the Spanish Consulate does seem a little out of place here, built in a style completely different to the rest of the town. Once upon a time, it must have been a white mansion, but the paint has yellowed over time, and now the mansion stands empty in a very enviable position overlooking the sea in a corner of Plaza de Espana. The Spanish coat of arms still decorates the door, but the windows are bricked up and the garden is overgrown. Sidi Ifni could do with a museum to show off its unusual history, so if the mayor of Sidi Ifni happens to read this, the Spanish Consulate would get my vote as a possible location...
Plaza de Espana
As its name suggests, this was the centre of the old Spanish enclave, a circular plaza with palm trees and a broken fountain as its centrepiece. It is crying out for a bit of attention, as the benches and fountain are decorated with colourful Spanish tiles. Officially, it has been renamed Place Hassan II after the Moroccan king, but hopefully that will be the only thing that changes if the authorities ever do decide to tidy up the square...part of the attraction of Sidi Ifni is that it is different to everywhere else in Morocco.
Around the square is a collection of weirdly grand buildings, each one completely different to the next. All have been spruced up in an attempt to attract tourists, perhaps a sign of things to come in the rest of the town. On the sea side is the Art Deco Hotel Bellevue, which is covered in my accommodation tip. Anti-clockwise from the hotel, you've got the Royal Palace in a splendid villa (look out for the guards half-heartedly protecting it...I gather the royals don't come very often), the Town Hall (another grand Spanish building), a couple of old villas, the old Spanish Consulate (see following tip), and the law courts in what used to be a church (again, see tip below).
If you are thinking of driving out there for the camels, then forget it - I didn't see a single one, and I've heard that the "camel market" is nowadays just a dismal little affair arranged for the tourists - but if it's scenery you want, then yes, definitely. The drive out there is wonderful. It takes about an hour and a half, and there's a new road.
- Road Trip
The post office area
The area round round the Suerte Loca and the Plaza d'Espana (spelling?) seemed a bit dead when I was there (in December), and the occasional pieces of 30's Spanish architecture didn't really ciompensate. (The reason why everyone photographs that Naval Secretariat is that it's practically the only thing in town of all the reported Art Deco architecture that they can find to photograph.) But if you go to the part of the old town near the post office (with all the banks and the cash-machines, etc), you'll find a better atmosphere, with as many people around as in any Moroccan town, cafes, shops, houses, and so on.
Colonial days gone by
This is the former Spanish Consulate, now lying empty, crumbling and unused. It's still an attractive building though and you can have a peek inside at the decaying interior. It's another of the interesting buildings encircling Place Hassan II