Updated November 2019
Shall we pop across to Tangier, Morocco and have lunch in Africa?
When we were standing on The Rock of Gibraltar, we were amazed we could actually see Africa.
This got us thinking, perhaps we could do a day trip to Tangier, Morocco.
Tangier is a Moroccan port in Africa, an important port across the Strait of Gibraltar from Europe.
So, after doing a bit of research we found there was a fast ferry leaving from Tarifa. It takes less than an hour to travel the 40km to Tangier.
So, let’s go have lunch in Africa
It’s not every day you get an opportunity to do a spur of the moment adventure.
And going to Africa for lunch, what a buzz that would be.
We just needed to put a plan in place.
How to Get From Tarifa to Tangier
FRS runs a regular fast ferry service between Tarifa and Tangier.
If we booked the 9 am ferry we could be in Tangier by 10 am (9 am Tangier time).
Spend five hours looking around and having lunch, then get the 3 pm ferry back (2 pm Tangier time).
We would be back in Spain at 4 pm. Perfect.
We think the time in Tangier will be too short, too much hassle and too expensive so we decide to “can” the idea.
But then we got chatting to Annie of Annie B’s Spanish Kitchen, who said we should go as it would be an awesome experience.
Annie runs culinary holidays and kitchen days for foodies who like to find out more about the culture of the area via the food. As
Annie is a Sherry Educator and totally passionate about all the amazing food of the Cadiz province.
She lives in Vejer de la Frontera, one of the wonderful Puebla Blancos (white towns) that dot this area of Spain. Vejer officially adopted Annie in honor of the attention she has bought to the gastronomy of the area.
Annie also helped in the production of a recent Rick Stein episode about Cadiz in his series Long Weekend. Cadiz is one of the best places to visit in Spain.
Following Annie’s encouragement, we decided we would make the trip. And she put us in touch with Ahmed, a guide she uses in Tangier and so the booking was made for Tuesday.
Booking a Guide for Tangier, Morocco
As far as pricing is concerned, we could have booked the ferry ourselves for €67 each return and paid Ahmed €20 each for a half-day tour. But Ahmed offered to do the ferry booking for us and the total would be €75 each including his time, a much better price and hopefully Ahmed was better off as well – win/win.
Ahmed also offers full-day tours including taking guests further afield.
As we only had limited time for a taste of Tangier, we chose a walking tour of the old town and lunch, so we booked the trip.
Booking a Ferry from Tarifa to Tangier
The ferry tickets issued against the authorization code Ahmed had provided, gave us just enough time to take a couple of snaps of the defensive castle Castillo de Tarifa aka Castle of Guzman el Bueno, built-in 960AD at the entrance to the port.
Africa was clearly visible and less than 20kms in a direct line.
With the ferry sorted, we found the FRS ferry modern, with a cafeteria and duty-free. We grabbed a coffee and a croissant and settled in the comfy seats for the trip across.
The trip itself was uneventful, very quick and smooth, the only thing was you need to get your arrival form and passport stamped on board.
There is usually a queue as only one official was on the job so it takes about 15minutes. On arrival, we passed through customs and were met by Ahmed.
To book your ferry ticket, we recommend FRS.
Four Hours in Tangier, Morocco for Lunch
Ahmed had provided great communication about managing the ferry crossing, passport control and meeting him at the port in Tangier.
We were aware there are a lot of un-credited tour operators who “pressure” you on tours of Tangier if you look a little doubtful on disembarking the boat.
We found this to be true when we missed Ahmed at the meeting point and were immediately approached by a pushy guy offering to take us on a tour.
Fortunately, we spotted Ahmed before things got too intense. So, may sure you pre-book a guide and you will avoid any potentially unpleasant situations, but make sure it is an accredited person.
Is it safe to visit Tangier?
What we love about Morocco, is it is one of the safest countries to visit in Africa.
And if you don’t believe us, then make sure you read this post by 197travelstamps listing the Safest Countries in Africa.
A Brief History of Tangier, Morocco
Ahmed has been a tour guide for over 25 years and was very knowledgeable about the Tangier and the country’s history – political, religious and economic.
Tangier is a city of 2.4million people, 2.2 million who live in the new part of town, with the other 200k living in the Medina, the old town.
We were surprised at how liberal Tangier allows all religions to exist comfortably side by side – Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and other Christian religions are all accepted.
Tangier was founded in the 5th Century BC by the Carthaginians and overtime came under the rule of the:
- English (who destroyed much of the city on their withdrawal)
In 1923 Tangier became an International Zone with nine nations administering it.
Initially France, Spain, and Britain, then later Portugal, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United States.
In 1952 the protecting powers met to discuss the Zone’s future, agreeing to abolish it. Tangier joined with the rest of Morocco following the restoration of full sovereignty in 1956.
So, Tangier is a city with a real cosmopolitan feel.
In fact, Tangier was the spy capital of the world during WW2, with all the nationalities swapping secrets in the cafes around Zoco Chico.
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Visiting the Kasbah of Tangier
Ahmed had organized a taxi to the top of the old town taking us along Avenue Mohammed 6 then up Rue Salah Eddine Al Ayoubi.
We arrived in front of the main entrance to the Kasbah, the fortified section of the old city set at the highest point overlooking the Straits of Gibraltar and the Medina.
A lot of the buildings here have been converted into hotels or Airbnbs. And wandering through the area provides great glimpses into Tangier’s history.
The Kasbah is also a favorite location for movie productions like
- Bond movies
- Jason Bourne
Exploring Tangier’s Medina
Walking through Tangier Medina is a labyrinth of cobblestone streets. As well as a mixture of several architectural styles including:
- European colonial
You will find shops selling items like:
- antique doors
- coffee tables
- decorative items
What was fascinating, were the bread shops.
Local people make their bread at home, but then carry it to the baker for baking in their wood-fired stone ovens.
Smells and Tastes of Grand Socco Food Market
We took a walk through the covered Grand Socco food market.
Here, butchers, farmers, and fishermen have their goods on display. The smell can be overwhelming, but it’s an interesting experience.
We got Ahmed to purchase a bag of olives for us. The variety of olives, colors, and flavors we had never seen before. And the smell of the olives was amazing.
Next, we purchased some Moroccan flatbread that had a soft leather-like exterior although light inside.
Africa for Lunch, the Best of Tangier, Morocco
Lunchtime, and the highlight of our day in Africa.
Ahmed had been given us several options for restaurants but we went with Ahmed’s suggestion to taste the Tangier flavors, in a clean restaurant at a good price.
Ahmed was right on all points.
We followed Ahmed to Restaurant Kasbah in the Medina, and we were warmly welcomed. Ahmed had phoned earlier to advise the restaurant we were having an early lunch due to our ferry sailing time.
The staff at the restaurant were awesome and soon brought us a platter of olives, bread, crepes, three dips of chili, eggplant, and ratatouille.
The dips were divine, but we had been advised by Ahmed not to eat too much as there was plenty more food on its way.
Next came Harira, a soup containing lamb, lentils, chickpeas, noodles and spiced with cinnamon, ginger cayenne, and turmeric. So flavorsome!
As we were reflecting on the dishes, we were then presented with a Pastilla, a pastry called square of Moroccan filo filled with a mix of chicken and ground almond. The firm filo was coated in sugar and cinnamon.
Pastilla is one of those dishes that when you taste it you are just overwhelmed by the flavor and texture.
The chicken tagine and couscous that followed was delicious.
With our final dish a fruit bowl with grapes, bananas, and mandarins with Moroccan mint tea and a piece of baklava.
We had been given a real treat with so many dishes and were surprised it was only €12 each.
Exploring the Medina of Tangier
After an awesome lunch, we did a little more exploring of Tangier Medina.
Maura (surprise, surprise) expressed an interest to visit a jewelry shop.
Ahmed chose a jewelry store for us where there were two sections, one with old-style Moroccan jewelry and the other with more modern jewelry.
We bought a few items after a bit of bartering, but probably still paid too much, lol.
The owner showed us the roof terrace so we could take some photos looking back up the hill over Tangier Medina. What a wonderful sight.
But time was getting on so we all strolled down from the Medina to the port.
Ahmed escorted us through to the passport check area, saying our goodbyes, we boarded the ferry to return to Spain.
What an amazing day of Lunch in Africa
To travel between two continents and two countries just for lunch is an awesome way to spend a day in Africa.
Having a wonderful guide who organized everything, including our ferry tickets, made the day memorable.
Exploring Tangier Kasbah and Medina allowed us to absorb the history as well as experience the daily life of Tangier Medina.
So, when you find yourself in Spain and you are after a travel adventure like this, we know you will love your Lunch in Africa.
And with slow travel, is one of the best ways to enjoy a memorable travel experience.