Being just picked up from Duquesa and just 12 miles away from the North African continent meant it wasn’t such an early start, so at 8am, when Americo our guide from Viajes Transandalucia picked us up, I was fresh and ready for the day ahead.
Americo, explained the itinerary and gave a really interesting insight into the history and diverse culture of Morocco. I have lived in Spain for many years and it’s fascinating to think that just an hour away is a whole different land just waiting to be explored!
Within 30 minutes we were in Algeciras, the largest trading Port of Spain. I ordered a coffee and my usual ‘pan tostado con tomate’ while getting ready to board the ferry that was going to take us to ‘Ceuta’ one of the two Spanish enclaves that sit on the shores of North African on the Mediterranean coast.
The ferry was comfortable and not too busy. Watching the sunrise above Gibraltar from the bay of Algeciras was absolutely stunning
On arrival at Ceuta we were met by Larbi, our local guide. Larbi ushered us onto our mini bus that was going to take us out of the bustling port, along the coast and across the border into the North African territory of Morocco.
During the journey we saw both sides of Morocco; the elaborate coastal villas, 5-star hotels and even the king’s residential palace along the coast. We also saw the very poor side of the country, and people queuing for hours to get over the border and back on foot. They buy goods & wares in the tax-free area of Ceuta to take back and trade just to make ends meet.
Our journey over the border took a little while so we were all grateful to Larbi as he efficiently organised our passports and the necessary paperwork, as we passed both the Spanish and African checkpoints.
Tetuan is located on the slopes of the Rif mountains, overlooking the waters of the Mediterranean. It was classified in 1997 as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Our journey into the Medina (old town) began as we entered through one of the seven gateways, each with Moorish archways and magnificent carvings. These doors are said to be the reflection of the passage of immigrants.
During the one-hour walking tour through the windy, cobbled streets we got the chance to taste delicious, warm bread straight from the clay ovens at the communal bakery, and one of our group even got to try on the native Moroccan costume worn by the farming community (much to the amusement of her husband!).
We headed through the busy market passing the local farmers & traders peddling their fragrant spices, colourful garments, exquisite jewellery, fish, vegetables and even live chickens! It was pretty chaotic; we were glad of our accompanying guides and local ‘watchman’ ushering us through the bustling crowds in the narrow streets.
Once through the Medina, we ‘popped’ out the other side to a very different world; we were in front of the ornate Palace of Hassan II, a fabulous photo opportunity with its art-nouveau light towers designed by Enrique Nieto, who, interestingly, was a student of modernist Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí.
During the lunch, I got a chance to chat to my fellow day trippers. We were a mixed bunch from Canada, the USA and also a handful of Brits. Our lunch was a traditional Moroccan affair with vegetable soup, lamb kebabs, and chicken and vegetable couscous served in a colourful tagine. We also had a delicious ‘Moroccan’ tea which tasted just like a Mojito (without the alcohol!). Lunch was included, we just had to pay for our drinks at a reasonable 1.50€ each.
Our conversation was mainly about out trip. Everyone enjoyed the sights especially wandering thought the market, the Jewish and Andalusian quarters and learning about the culture. We all agreed that the visit was certainly an ‘experience’ that we would not have attempted on our own without the knowledgeable and experienced guides. It was great to have the route and logistics all organised for us too!
Before we boarded our coach for the coastal journey back to the port, we headed to a huge carpet, rug and furniture warehouse. We were shown the traditional rugs from the different ‘tribes’ of Morocco. We had a little bit of banter with the owners of the warehouse; they were keen to sell you their wares, but nobody felt pressured in anyway. There were some stunning woven rugs and wooden handmade artefacts.
It was a relaxing journey back and, on the return journey, I reflected on my ‘Day trip to Morocco’. It was certainly very different from my previous visit to Tangiers. It felt less busy, more cultural and also, I enjoyed learning about Morocco, it’s fascinating history, it’s royal family and how things had changed throughout the ages. This underrated Hispano-Moorish city is, in my opinion, a combination of two different cultures mixed to perfection. It is now easy for me to understand why Tetuan is known as the “white dove” or “Granada of Morocco”.
Morocco made and impact on my senses — the food, the colours, the spices, the smells, and the scenery were unforgettable!
I would certainly recommend you take a trip with Transandalucia Tours to experience the culture and see a totally different way of life. It goes without saying that the beauty of booking with an organised trip and an established tour operator is that all of the planning and logistics is taken care of and you are very well looked after during the tour!
‘Day trip to Morocco’ runs every Thursday and is operated by Viajes Transandalucia.
To make a reservation or for more info please visit Duquesa Holidays/Tours (click this link)