Tangier is a charming Moroccan city to visit. Exotic mysteries, intriguing history, beautiful scenery, pristine beaches, friendly people and much more that travelers love. It is an interesting mix of North African, Spanish and French cultures and indeed has a very cosmopolitan history and is traditionally populated by people from different cultures.
The city Tangier is a beautiful Moroccan port on the Strait of Gibraltar that has played an important strategic role between Africa and Europe throughout history. This city also inspired several great artists such as Delacroix, Paul Bowles or Matisse.
Tangier is a city worth taking your time to visit. If you plan to visit this wonderful Moroccan city, keep reading!
Tangier, French Tanger, Arabic Ṭanjah, Spanish Tánger, is a port and leading city of northern Morocco. The city is in the bay of Strait of Gibraltar, 27 km from the southern tip of Spain, Tétouan is about 65 km southeast.
Tangier was built on the slope of a limestone hill. The 15th-century walled Old Town (Medina) is dominated by the Kasbah, the Sultan’s Palace now the Museum of Morocco and the Great Mosque. To the south and west is the European Quarter, which has seen a sharp decline in population since the integration with Morocco in 1956. Tangier has been the summer residence of the Moroccan royal family since 1962. The city is an important port and commercial center, with excellent road and rail connections with cities like Fez, Meknes, Rabat and Casablanca, along with international airports and regular sea connections with Europe. Construction, fishing, textile and carpet manufacturing complement the city’s vibrant tourism.
Tangier and its suburbs dominate the surrounding region, located on a peninsula just north of the Ghab Low Plain and bordering the Rif Mountains to the southeast. Outside the city, the area is poor in resources. Vegetable cultivation and poultry farming are traditionally the most important rural pursuits.
Fun facts about Tangier:
- Tangier is one of the oldest cities in Morocco.
- Tangier is agriculturally known for its tangerines, as tangerines originated from this city. As the similar spelling between fruit and city indicates, the fruit gets its name from the city.
- According to legend, Tangier is known as the final resting place of Hercules. Also known as the Cave of Hercules, the caves are part of many myths and legends, but the one that lives up to its name is based on the legend of Hercules, who is rumored to have rested in the caves during the 11th of his 12 labors.
- Throughout its history, Tangier has been raided and traded between many nations, but none of these changes have been attributed to King Charles II of England as part of his dowry when he married Catherine of Braganza. It was not as weird as it was given. The marriage contract was a major renewal of the Anglo-Portuguese alliance.
- During the 19th and 20th centuries, the all-white city lost its innocence and became home to international espionage. It was a safe place where many espionage and smuggling operations took place.
- Tangier is the original city known for Morocco’s special mint tea. Its main ingredient is, of course, mint! Green tea originates from China, but Moroccans add a healthy dose of mint to the pot that originated in Tangier, making it a Moroccan symbol of hospitality and culture.
- Morocco was the first country to officially recognize the United States as an independent nation. The United States became independent in 1783, but no one officially recognized the United States as an independent government until the Sultan of Morocco became its first in 1821. As a gift, the Sultan gave them the American Legation building in Tangier for diplomatic use, making it the first American property outside the United States. This created a lasting bond between the two countries, and the building, which no longer housed diplomats, was subsequently converted into a walk-in museum.
Due to its exposed location, Tangier has a Mediterranean climate and receives more rainfall than most of North Africa and its neighbors on the Iberian Peninsula. The prevailing winds blew in from the sea, keeping the place healthy even in the early days when sanitary conditions were generally much poorer.
Summers are relatively hot and sunny, while winters are humid and mild. Frosts are rare, but a new low of −4.2 °C was recorded in January in 2005. The summers in Tangier are warm, humid, dry and mostly clear and the winters are long, cool, wet, windy and partly cloudy. Temperatures fluctuate between 8°C to 29°C throughout the year, but rarely drop below 4°C or above 32°C. The best time to visit Tangier for the hot weather activities is late June to early September based on the beach/pool score.
The hottest month in Tangier is July with an average temperature of 24°C and the coldest month is January with an average temperature of 13°C. November is the wettest month with an average rainfall of 125 mm. The best month to swim in the ocean is August, when the average sea temperature is 23°C.
Culture & Nightlife
For years, the city has served as a link between different cultures. Tangier was once an Amazigh (Berber) city and a trading center for the Phoenicians. It also fell into the hands of the Romans, Vandals, Visigoths and Umayyads Empire. Settlement of the Carthaginian Empire in the 5th century BC. Tangier was called “Tingis” by the Greeks, which inspired its current name.
Many civilizations and cultures, beginning before the 10th century BC, have influenced Tangier’s history. Beginning as a strategic Berber city and later as a Phoenician trading center, Tangier is a crossroads of many cultures. In 1923, it became a colonial international zone and a destination for many European and American diplomats, spies, bohemians, writers and businessmen. This status ended with the gradual independence of Morocco between 1956 and 1960. From 1956, Tangier was reunited with Morocco. Its complex administrative history has made it known as a center of cultural and religious diversity.
In the early 21st century, Tangier experienced rapid development and modernization. Projects include a tourism project along the bay, a modern business district called Tangier City Centre, an airport terminal and a football stadium. Tangier’s economy will greatly benefit from the Tangier-Med Port.
Tangier’s multicultural society and large immigrant population have attracted artists such as Paul Bowles, William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Tennessee Williams, Brion Gysin and The Rolling Stones all of whom lived here or visited at one point or another.
Traditional Tangier dishes include couscous, tajines, pastillas, brochettes and harira. These dishes can be found in most restaurants.
- Couscous: It is considered a specialty in Morocco and Tangier is no exception. If you are in a restaurant, you must order it a little in advance so that it is prepared correctly. It comes with a variety of vegetable and meat fillings, usually chicken, lamb and roasted vegetables.
- Tajines: This is basically a stew cooked with a thick sauce, fruits and vegetables. It is usually cooked using a large clay pot.
- Harira: This is a delicious, hearty soup usually made with chickpeas. The soup is very filling and is popular at lunchtime. Perfect for those who do a lot of walking around town.
- Brochettes: All over Tangier you will see people eating brochettes in the streets. They are basically doner kebabs with different types of steak or swordfish and various other ingredients.
- Pastilla: This dish consists of pigeon meat, rice and eggs and is covered with a sweet puff pastry. It sounds a little strange, but it is incredibly delicious and very filling.
Morocco is a Muslim country, but alcohol, nightclubs and bars are not illegal. Tangier has been influenced by Spain, England and France due to its geographical location. It has an active nightlife and bar scene, with many pubs near the coast. Here are some of the places where you can spend a unique night in Tangier.
- TangerInn: Historic nightclub with 1950s ambiance and décor by American beatnik writers.
- El Morocco Club: The restaurant with its bar area and its unique atmosphere reminds you of the James Bond movies.
- La Luma Club Tanger: This club is famous for its European and Moroccan style, with shows like Marrakech and club atmosphere in Marbella, it must be one of people’s favorites!
- 555 Famous Club Tanger: One of the best clubs in Tangier. Commercial music, modern interiors, known as something of a European nightclub.
- Souq Night Market: Located in the old medina, this night market is a famous destination for tourists and locals alike. There are stalls selling a variety of products, such as traditional Moroccan handicrafts and souvenirs.
- Le Cercle des arts: This downtown venue hosts stand-up shows by local and international comedians. It is a great place to experience laughter and have fun.
Tangier is popular for its night clubs but book a Tangier Night Tour instead to experience the hustle and bustle of the backstreets of the old Medina area and sip Moroccan mint tea with the locals! There are many options for both singles and couples, but there are differences when it comes to nightlife.
For singles, Tangier has many bars, clubs and pubs that are popular overnight spots. These venues often have a lively atmosphere and may feature live music and DJ sets. Many of these venues are in modern areas of the city such as Avenue Hassan II and Boulevard Pasteur.
Tangier also has plenty of options for couples, such as rooftop bars and restaurants with panoramic views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea. These places have a more easygoing atmosphere and are perfect to have a drink and watch the sunset. Many traditional Moroccan cafes and tea rooms offer a more intimate and authentic experience for couples. These venues often have live music and dance performances and are a great way to experience traditional Moroccan culture.
Tangier is a city that you will fall in love with from the moment you enter, offering an incredible diversity of tourism, culture and gastronomy. The city is easy to see as the main tourist attractions are concentrated in several neighborhoods very close together. Here is a list of famous attractions/places you should visit during your stay in Tangier.
This old town is perhaps Tangier’s greatest attraction. Its narrow streets and many shops make it a very interesting experience. However, it is very likely that you will get lost. Also, be aware that both street vendors and shopkeepers want to sell you everything from fez and bracelets to mats and fake Rolexes.
Kasbah is a large walled district in the southern part of Medina. Getting lost in the old town is a Tangier must-see! The interesting thing about the old Medina is that it is easy to get lost in the miles of small, narrow and endless streets between all the buildings. If you want to get a real feel of the city, stroll through the narrow streets of Medina. It can be confusing and sometimes overwhelming, but that is part of the adventure. A casual stroll in any old town is always a pleasant experience. It is located directly next to the Grand Socco and approximately three km from the train station. Most of the guesthouses and riads are also located there.
The Kasbah Museum
The museum was once known as ‘Dar el Makhzen’, which means ‘Palace of the Sultan’, and was the residence of the Portuguese governors from 1471 to 1661. Today it houses a collection of archaeological and ethnographic artifacts, mostly from northern Morocco. Before entering the rest of the exhibits, take a counterclockwise tour of the first courtyard, then stroll through the charming Andalusian gardens. Located on the Kasbah, it is easy to reach on foot or by small taxi from anywhere in the city center.
The Cap Spartel
The Cap Spartel is a cape located 14 km from Tangier. It is a cape with a height of 326 m and there is a beautiful lighthouse at the tip of the cape. What makes this place so special? On clear days there is a magnificent view of the meeting of the Atlantic and Mediterranean Seas.
The American Legation Museum
A vibrant cultural center, museum, conference center and library in the heart of Tangier’s ancient Medina, the Tangier American Legation Museum (TALM) is housed in the only US Historic Landmark abroad. The museum displays an extensive collection of art objects and historical artifacts. There is also a Paul Bowles Wing dedicated to the writer and composer who spent most of his adulthood in Tangier. Morocco was the first country to recognize the United States in December 1777 hoping to facilitate trade with the new republic. This act of the Sultan of Morocco was the first official recognition of the United States by a head of state.
The Caves of Hercules
The Caves of Hercules (Les Grottes d’Hercule), the strange sea entrances shaped like a map of Africa, are a kind of symbol for Tangier. The main caves are part of a larger archaeological cave system located 14 kilometers west of Tangier. The caves are partly natural and partly man-made. The natural part was sculpted by the Atlantic waves, and the artificial part was used by the Berbers to cut stone wheels from the walls. The cave dates to 2500 BC. The name comes from the legend of Hercules because some believe Hercules slept in these caves before attempting one of his 12 labors.
The Cafe Hafa
Cafe Hafa is basically a historic Tangier institution and a go-to place for anyone passing through. Founded in 1921, as proudly declared at the entrance, it sits on a cliff with a breathtaking Mediterranean panoramic view. This outdoor cafe is mostly packed in the afternoon with locals and tourists playing music, playing cards and sprawling out across the tables. If you want to go while it is quiet, mornings are recommended.
The Phoenician Tombs
The Phoenician Tombs are located between Cafe Hafa and the upper entrance of the Old Kasbah. It is true that these burial structures are very often full of water and waste, but they are still interesting and of great historical value. From the top of the cliff, where the tombs are located there is a wonderful view of the city and port. It is a place of relaxation for local people. If you have the time, go there at sunset, grab a drink or snack, and sit for a while.
Grand Mosque of Tangier
Built in 1684 and remodeled several times over the years, it now has an Alawite aesthetic. A large 17th-century mosque whose minaret rises from the city walls to the sea. This is not the first place of worship in this place, before the mosque there was a cathedral and a Roman temple.
Church of Saint Andrew
Some tourists appreciate a visit to the humble yet historic Anglican Church of St. Andrew. The church still holds services today and is known for its Gothic-Islamic architecture. The church overlooks a cemetery that you can also visit. Inside the church, notice the Lord’s Prayer written in elegant Arabic calligraphy. It was consecrated in 1905 and the overgrown flower gardens of the cemetery contain the tombs of many historical figures. The chapel was also painted by the famous French artist Henri Matisse when he was in the city in 1912.
Since there is no public transport to rely on here in Tangier, the alternative is to travel by taxi. Of course, you can visit most places on foot. However, the places further away are best reached by taxi. There are, of course, other ways to move from point to point. Below are a few options.
Tangier, like in the rest of Morocco, has two types of taxis: petit taxis and grand taxis.
Petit taxis are smaller vehicles, ultramarine with yellow stripes on the sides. They are used to making short trips within the city and charging 50% more at night. Tangier has always suffered from a shortage of taxis, so always remember that you can hail a taxi that already has passengers and still has space.
Grands Taxis are used for long distance travels from Tangier to surrounding cities or from the airport to the city center. Tangier’s Grand Taxis are usually a four-door Mercedes from the ’80s in beige with no air conditioning. They are typically shared taxis in Morocco. Taxis usually do not leave town before they are full. Unless you pay for the entire taxi (all six seats) yourself.
Public buses are also available if you want to explore the city but don’t want to take a taxi.
Tangier has two different bus stations that can be used to connect buses to reach the neighboring cities.
One is Gare Routiere at Jamia Al Arab Square, Tangier’s main bus station, and the other is CTM Gare Voyageurs (the new private bus station) on the route to Tetouan, about three miles from Tangier’s city center is. It is advisable to drive the extra mile to reach CTM Gare Voyageurs. The quality and comfort of the CTM Gare Voyageurs buses are much higher. Gare Routiere is about two km south of the city center.
CTM Gare Voyageurs is not as conveniently located, but the convenience these buses provide is well worth the extra mile. The bus station itself is on the route to Tetouan, about five km from the city center and directly opposite the Morora train station. You can get there by taxi or bus number 10 on Rue Pasteur.
To travel by train to Marrakech, Fez, Casablanca and other Moroccan cities, you need to go to the train station in Tangier. The town has two train stations, one called Tanger Ville and the other Morora.
The station has been expanded to accommodate the new bullet train and has lost a bit of its original charm but is only about a 7-minute taxi ride from the port and easily accessible from almost anywhere in the city. You can also skip the taxi by taking the number 13 bus to Tanger Ville station or the Supratours shuttle from the railway company.
All information about train prices and timetables in Morocco can be found on the ONCF website. Once you have decided which train you want to go to, go to the station and buy a ticket. Make sure you have cash to purchase the ticket as it is not always possible to pay by debit or with credit card.
Morocco’s housing market has cooled sharply amid slowing economic growth. Currently, real estate prices are gradually declining. Transaction collapses. And the mortgage market is steadily shrinking. According to Morocco’s central bank, Banco Al-Maghrib, the National Residential Property Price Index (REPI) fell 0.6% in 2019, compared with a 0.8% growth in the previous year.
About 20% of the country’s population are struggling to afford decent housing, despite a significant reduction in poverty in recent years. On the other hand, the high-end market is well supplied. Morocco is a country of high inequality, with approximately 820,000 units vacant or used as holiday homes and vacation homes.
Over the past decade, the government has implemented many housing projects that have mobilized thousands of acres of land and encouraged developers to invest in public housing projects, pledged to build 900,000 units by 2020. Sales of public housing are VAT-free (ranging from 50m² to 80m²) and the price is limited to MAD 250,00. The cost of middle-income housing is limited to MAD 6,000 per square meter (m²) for units between 80 m² and 120 m². Loans for middle- and low-income families are available through government-bank partnerships.
Morocco’s housing shortage decreased from 1.2 million units in 2002 to 400,000 units last year (2020). To further improve the situation, the government plans to build 800,000 affordable apartments by 2022.
It can be helpful for foreigners to research accommodation and connect via social media platforms before moving to Morocco. It is also advisable to sign up with an apartment search website in the area you want to live. It may also be helpful to consider short rental options first, so you have plenty of time to search for an apartment over the long term. Even foreigners can buy property in Morocco. This is an advantage for expatriates as they are entitled to tax benefits when investing in real estate. This might also be something interesting you can check out while looking for an apartment.
You can search for short- and long-term rental apartments using the following websites:
If you are considering moving to Morocco, or are already live there as a global nomad, take the time to read about Morocco’s healthcare system for ex-pats. Learning about different health insurance options is also important. Like many other countries, Morocco has a two-tiered healthcare system.
Assurance Maladie Obligatoire (AMO) is a Moroccan health insurance scheme that provides medical care to employees of governmental enterprises. The private healthcare system includes people who work in private companies. Unemployed or underemployed people receive free medical care from public centers under the AMO system.
Despite being a developing country, Morocco’s health care system for ex-pats falls short of Western standards. As a world-traveling nomad, it may come as a surprise to learn that medical care is inadequate in this country. Although the health insurance system has been in existence since 2005, only 30% of Morocco’s population has health insurance.
As a digital nomad, be careful when receiving treatment in public hospitals and clinics. The awful situation, lack of qualified doctors, and lack of needed medical facilities can be discouraging.
The AMO program has brought private medical infrastructure facilities much closer to Western standards. But you will pay an enormous fee. Even private doctors are limited only to large cities. Therefore, it is advisable for nomads to take out international health insurance. This allows you to receive superior levels of care while reducing costs.
In summary, Morocco’s healthcare system for foreigners is still evolving. The government’s initiative to reform the social welfare process, it will enhance the quality of services given to citizens and foreigners. The healthcare system and medical facilities serve global citizens, only employers provide health insurance.
You will be visiting an insurance agent multiple times to receive compensation for your medical expenses. Therefore, consider taking out international health insurance. You also need to ensure that out-of-country medical evacuation, life-saving, or professional treatment is covered in the event of a medical emergency or serious illness.
In case of an emergency
Here is a list of emergency numbers in Morocco in case of an emergency. There are also some emergency words/phrases that can come in handy in case of an emergency.
- Police: 190/19
- Royal gendarmerie / Police outside the cities: 177
- Medical assistance: 150/15
- Fire brigade: 150/15
* The translation of the Arabic words may be incorrect. Further, more words may exist for the same words.
Important things to do
It is important to carry valid identification when traveling to another country. This is to prevent trouble when the police ask you to present these documents. Finally, carry a copy of your insurance policy or write down all the necessary information in case of illness or accident. As mentioned earlier, check if your health insurance is valid in Morocco and if it covers the costs in case of an emergency. Further, look at other possible insurance you can have. Also, make a copy of your passport or ID card, bring the copy with you, and leave the original at your accommodation. In this case, even if your bag is lost or stolen, you still have your original ID.
Money is essential as you will not go far without the hard Dirhams. The currency of Morocco, the Dirhams, is almost impossible to get outside of Morocco. When you arrive in Morocco, get cash first. Almost everything is paid in cash because you cannot pin at everyone. You can choose to exchange money at a currency exchange office or withdraw money from an ATM. There is not much difference between exchange center and ATM fees.
A visa is required regardless of whether you enter Morocco by plane or by ferry. However, for holidays and tours in Morocco, you do not need to arrange anything in advance for a tourist visa. At customs at the airport or port, you will receive two stamps namely the visa and the CIN number. A CIN number is a Moroccan personal identification number that must be provided by all hotels, campsites, or bed and breakfasts. A tourist visa is valid for 90 days. Please make sure you leave the country or arrange an extension by this time.
There is barely any information online about extending visas, but it is possible. This usually only happens if you are already in Morocco on a tourist visa. If for some reason you already know in advance that a 90-day visa is not enough, you can contact the Moroccan consulate. Although an extension is probably easier to arrange if you are already in Morocco.
Some words to get you started
The official language is Classical Arabic, which is primarily written. The official language is Moroccan Arabic (Darija), and three Berber dialects are spoken: Tarafit (Rif), Tashelhit (High Atlas, Anti-Atlas, Souss Valley), and Tamazight (Middle Atlas).
Moreover, French is the language of urban intellectuals. This is the best language for an outsider. However, if you can speak Arabic or Berber, it would be greatly appreciated. All roadside signs are bilingual, first in Arabic and then in French, making it easy to travel around.