Most people who venture to Morocco know about the famous port cities like Tangier, Casablanca and Rabat. The well-researched traveler (hopefully reading our blog!) has also most likely heard of Agadir, Essaouira and maybe even Safi. There are standard tourist stops in all cities but there are many other lesser known things to do and see in these big cities as well as smaller, lesser-known port cities.
The northern port cities are those bordering the Mediterranean Sea and portions of the Atlantic coast. These cities stretch from the Morocco/Algeria border to Kenitra on the Atlantic side. Whether visiting the northern or southern cities keep in mind the busiest times of year are in the summers when they are flooded with tourists and Moroccans alike. The down season is in the winter/rainy months. If you’re seeking anything other than just a sun tanning experience, the winter months might make for a great visit because of the cooler weather, fewer tourists and lower prices. If your visit finds you on the northern coasts of Morocco, here are some port cities and activities you might want to explore.
Situated at the northernmost tip of the country on the Strait of Gibraltar, Tangier in Morocco is famous authors, writers and artists who have lived and worked in this once “international zone.” It also has gained credence in the 20th century as a “safe house” for espionage. Tangier has been a city of neutrality, an international city giving it this reputation.
Many cruises originate out of the port, including day ferries to Gibraltar and Algeciras, Spain. Some of the interesting tourist sites include the Dar al Makhzen (Sultan’s Palace) that also houses the Museum of Moroccan Arts and Museum of Antiquities. The Tangier American Legation Museum is dedicated to preserving and strengthening the bond of the United States and Morocco. The Museum of Contemporary Art, housed in the old British consulate, includes six rooms representing a stage in the evolution of modern painting in Morocco. The Tangier Grand Mosque was constructed in the late 17th century after rule was returned to a Moroccan monarch. The Anglican Church of St. Andrew and a nearby cemetery are also worth visiting.
Asilah is located a little over 30km from Tangier. The Portuguese first captured this city but by 1692 Moulay Ismail of Morocco had retaken it. In the 19th and 20th centuries it was a base for pirates. Today the city hosts many festivals including a mural festival in August. Red coral jewelry is popular in this area and reasonably priced. This is a small town but a great place to relax with plenty of accommodations, nice beaches and shops.
Al Hoceima is in the middle of the Rif Mountains on the Mediterranean coast. Traditionally the houses were white and blue to represent the sea and the sky. The Al Hoceima National Park on the Mediterranean coast in an eco-region known as the Alboran Sea.
Tetouan is known for its orchards of oranges, almonds and pomegranates. Many of the homes were built by those expelled from Andalusia, and they have a very Moorish look and feel. The medina has been listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. If the sizeable Fez tanneries are intimidating, Tetouan has a smaller but more approachable version. Also found in this city is the Dar Sanaa School of Arts and Crafts. This school teaches and retains the traditional arts of Morocco.
Written by Amanda Mouttaki.
Photo by zz77.