Tales of an American in Morocco

Tangier Morocco

There are people that will tell you that going to Tangier isn’t really going to Morocco. They will tell you that to truly experience the North-African beauty you need to go to Marrakesh or Casablanca.

While I will agree that the big name destinations will show you a different side of Morocco, I don’t think Tangier should be so easily dismissed. With its location on the Strait of Gibraltar, Tangier is incredibly close to the European continent, making it a great day trip destination to those visiting Spain’s southern coast.

Visiting the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region can be unsettling for first time travelers. However, there is comfort for some in knowing that they are only 45 minutes away from Spain; and on clear days the Spain can be seen from across the way.

This proximity is noticeable on both sides of the Straight. The Moors influence can be seen all over the Spain! With palaces and mosques sprinkled around the nation, and beautiful wood carvings and ornate tile-work which take your breath away, the distance from Spain to Morocco seems even smaller than it really is.

While I will agree that the big name destinations will show you a different side of Morocco, I don’t think Tangier should be so easily dismissed.

Tangier’s Medina quarter, which is a walled, maze-like section of the city, is in my opinion as close to “true Morocco” as you can get! Bigger cities generally develop more quickly and tend to move away from traditional ways, but Tangier has held on to that cultural charm and beauty.

Of all the MENA areas I have visited, Tangier is by far one of the most traveler friendly in terms of interacting with shop owners and making daily purchases. Navigating the maze of streets is another story, though!

My MENA story started in Israel, but my love affair with the region and its culture came one sunny day along the historic winding streets of Tangier. The narrow streets of Medina was the first Middle East experience I had without being accompanied by my family.

Morocco Ess Mckn Circawanderlust

Though it was only a day trip and I was traveling with a high school group, I quickly fell in love with an area that inspired 1,001 stories; told and retold by people that could have so easily been characters in the beloved stories themselves.

Bigger cities generally develop more quickly and tend to move away from traditional ways, but Tangier has held on to that cultural charm and beauty.

I’ve mentioned before that I am not your typical traveler. Thanks to open-minded parents and opportunities over the years, as well as some student loans to fund adventures, I tend to see the world a little differently than your typical “young American woman” traveling.

One of the reasons why I suggest Tangier to friends wanting to see the MENA region is because it is pretty mild in the world of travel, concerning haggling or overly zealous sales people.

Many Americans might not have experience on how to handle these things, which are cultural norms in many other places throughout the world. Tangier, and the Medina particularly, make it a little easier on American tourists experiencing the MENA for the first time.

Walking along the streets of Tangier felt a lot like going back in time. I assume this is what it would be like to visit Cuba currently. It is incredible to meander through towns that are lost to the years, comprised of  historic houses and buildings.

Morocco Ess Mckn Circawanderlust

These are some of my favorite places to visit because modern day life hasn’t taken over. You can still see culture, richly preserved in a way of life you can’t find in many places. Morocco’s landscapes are incredibly picturesque, in “a desert meets the ocean” kind of way, which makes you thirsty for beauty.

Tangier is no exception. It might not be the capital of Morocco, but it is still colorful, quirky, and charming in its own sense of the word. Anyone who has the chance to visit the MENA region should definitely make a pit-stop in this unforgettable city.

Walking along the streets of Tangier felt a lot like going back in time. I assume this is what it would be like to visit Cuba currently. It is incredible to meander through towns that are lost to the years, comprised of  historic houses and buildings.

As you walk down its streets you will step into the history books. You will walk among the roads of Phoenician traders and take the routes American and European spies did during the Cold War. At the end of the day, chances are you will have the best cup of mint tea you have ever tasted!

Don’t be afraid to stop and smell spices you’ve never seen or heard of before, learn what makes Moroccan kilims so unique and say hello to the shop owners, as they all greet you with endearing smiles.

Ess Mckn

Ess Mckn

Ess Mckn is the co-founder (along with her husband Tim) of Circa Wanderlust, a blog for history loving travel junkies with a penchant for old brick buildings and adventures as well as travel advice and tips. Ess and her husband often take their two dogs on their one-weekend- at-a- time explorations and can be found on cross country road trips in search of the best hole in the wall BBQ joints and scenic backroads when they aren’t travel abroad. Her hope is to inspire others to travel in their own back yard and abroad through stories and pictures that chronicle their travels. You can follow their adventures at @circawanderlust on IG!

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