Famous TV chef, Anthony Bourdain, recently visited Tangier, Morocco for the show Parts Unknown in search of good food and an experience of its storied culture. He shares some local dinner table manners:
“Like anywhere else in the Arab world,” explained Bourdain, “eating with your hands — always the right one — is proper dining etiquette.”
In the article from CNN, Bourdain talked to some locals about the young artists, writers and musicians who come to Tangier today expecting a 1950s wonderland – and the fight to keep Tangier’s unique character alive. This international city that drew famous wanderers became a melting pot for culture and entertainment. But today, it’s slowly developing into a modern metropolis while retaining its old world style and flair.
“Tangier is Morocco,” Bourdain exclaimed. “Always was Morocco. And recently the country’s leadership seems to have embraced it in all its ill-reputed glory. The days of predatory poets in search of literary inspiration and young flesh are probably over for good. Hippies can just as easily get their bong riffs in Portland or Peoria. But the good stuff, the real good stuff, the sounds and smells and the look of Tangier — what you see and hear when you lean out the window and take it all in — that’s here to stay.”
They seemed to have a great time visiting the city. I’ve attached a map below of the top things they experienced in Tangier. If you’re travelling to Morocco, I recommend you explore Tangier and try some of the unique food and culture.
We rode camels. We finally did it. We’ve been living in Morocco for years, but this was the first time we’ve mounted these gnarly hump-backed beasts. My brother’s family was in town and so we loaded up all the kids and did the tourist thing. Local Moroccans tell us that riding camels is just for tourists, but come on, who doesn’t want to ride a camel?
There’s something exotic about it. It reminds you of the movies where ancient caravans traveled through the desert on camels and everyone wore turbans. Of course, camel riding isn’t a reflection of authentic Morocco any more than belly dancers are, but when you travel to a foreign country with a vastly different culture it’s natural to be reminded of the stereotypes that we’ve developed from movies. And the local guides are happy to indulge our false assumptions about their culture if it gives them a job.
Some people may think this is ruining the “real” Morocco, but I compare it to Disney World in America. The Mickey Mouse theme park is American culture on steroids, but it’s unlike anywhere else in “real” America. Mickey and Minnie are life-sized rodents, which makes no sense, but Americans have adopted them as cultural icons and we enjoy the fun of it. It’s the same with camels in Morocco. Average Moroccans don’t ride camels, but this has become an icon of Arab culture, and it’s developed as a symbolic experience of this exotic country.
What do you think? Are exotic tourist destinations becoming too commercialized? Leave a comment and share your views.
The home of world-renowned garden designer Madison Cox is a simple Moorish refuge in a city that has captivated like-minded wanderers for centuries: beloved books and plants share his view of the deep blue Strait of Gibraltar. Here is an excerpt of the recent New York Times article:
“Sunny, stormy and fog-drenched Tangier has long been a magnet for diplomats, painters, traders, writers, dreamers, stoners, smugglers and spies. In the last century, the city has been full- and part-time home to an eccentric assortment of creative residents and travelers including Eugène Delacroix, Henri Matisse, Edith Wharton, Tennessee Williams, Paul Bowles, Barbara Hutton, Cecil Beaton, William S. Burroughs, Patricia Highsmith and Yves Saint Laurent. All of them basked in the warm — sometimes dangerous and decadent — romantic allure of Morocco’s most northern outpost. The city’s complicated, contentious history matches its diverse vistas and uneven topography: it has been an ancient Berber settlement, a Roman and Phoenician outpost, and a trophy port for a half-dozen occupying foreign powers before it gained independence in 1956.
Tangier has almost as many astounding views as it has residents. There isn’t a spot in this city that doesn’t look across, up to, down on, or over a huge expanse of the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, the Rock of Gibraltar, the southern coast of Spain, lush nature preserves and gardens, ancient markets and handsome French, Spanish and Italian Colonial-era buildings. Tangier’s long, raw, jig-jag coastline is rimmed with epic cliffs and crashing surf; a network of steep rolling hills are cloaked in whitewashed houses and shops; and the newly reconfigured and renovated marina is abuzz with hundreds of fishing skiffs, ferries and cruise ships chugging in and out. This is a place of kinetic, powerful natural and artificial beauty.”
A writer from Spain recently travelled to our city (Tangier, Morocco), and he ended up writing multiple articles on his experiences as a traveler. I’m always interested to hear what other people think of this city, and I’ve quoted bits from his articles below. Have you ever traveled to Morocco? If so, do you think his observations are accurate, based on your experience?
The Difference Between Marrakech and Tangier
“When we arrived in Tangier, “there was a chilled-out vibe that the more southern city lacked. I’d heard that the authorities had wisely cleared out the most annoying touts in order to encourage tourism. Walking around we had numerous young men offer us a tour but they took no for an answer, at least after two or three nos. In Marrakech it generally took ten or 12 nos. Tangier is also a remarkably clean city, with a fresh sea breeze coming off the bay and streets that lack the minefields of dog sh** that I’m used to in Spanish cities.”
Tangier’s Art and Café Scene
“Being a center for art and literature, of course Tangier has a great café scene. There are two main types – the traditional Moroccan teahouse and the French-style café/patisserie. Traditional tea houses are everywhere, from little cubicles in the market to larger, dimly lit affairs on the plazas. The few women who go to them are mostly foreign and the drink of choice is tea made with fresh mint leaves floating in the water. The pace is slow. It takes ages to get your drink or even pay for it and that’s OK. This is a place for whiling away the hours in relaxed conversation.”
Traveling to Tangier
“Like many ports, Tangier has an international feel. Arabic is the native language, and French is the default foreign tongue. Spanish and English are also widely spoken. At times they all get jumbled up and something as simple as ordering a tea can involve all four languages. It’s great fun. Tangier is an easy flight from Madrid and many other European cities and makes a great short holiday or the starting point for a longer exploration of Africa.”
If you have been to Tangier before, leave a comment and share what was your lasting impression of the city?
You’ll encounter many languages in Morocco. Strolling down the streets of Tangier, you will surely hear French, Arabic (the Moroccan dialect of course), Spanish, some English, and if you have the ear for it, one of the three Berber languages. But the heart language of Morocco is Arabic. It’s the language of the Mosque and the coffee shop. This semitic language is also a gateway into a world of art and design. Arabic calligraphy is one of the trademark crafts of Arab and Islamic culture. Originating from a desire not to recreate images of the divine in human form, Arabic script was used to preserve the writing of the Quran. Today, it continues to be a way to artistic expression.
This is a great water park in Tangier, Morocco. It’s built into the cliff that overlooks the Bay of Tangier. And other than offering great views and water-slides, the water park provides a welcomed rest from the hustle and bustle of the city and the hot summer days.
Tangier is a unique city situated at the tip of North Africa, just miles from Southern Europe across the Strait of Gibraltar. It doesn’t always appear fully African or Arab, because its history as an international city and its proximity to Europe has led it to develop as a multicultural city.
What’s another city where you can ride a camel on the beach and take the kids to a water park?
Traditionally costumed water sellers are seen throughout Morocco. For a dirham or two water is poured from camel leather bags into brass or tin cups. Few tourists can resist photographing the colorfully clad men decked out in elaborate tasseled hats. You can hear the musical clinking of the brass and bells they wear.
Today water sellers make more money from vacationers who pay to photograph them than from peddling water.
In Marrakesh water sellers in Jemma el Fna are licensed and wander amongst the crowds, food stalls, snake charmers, story tellers, dancers, acrobats and fortune tellers. They are adept at getting the most from tourists. Indeed if one approaches you in the square don’t be surprised if two others appear to pose in a trio. All three will expect a tip.
Info from Escape From New York