Full of hustlers, swindlers and corrupt officials perpetrating nefarious dealings and endless scams to outwit the tourist ... that's Tangier, right?
Wrong! The View from Fez recently spent a couple of days in a city that has a lot more charm than the guidebooks would have you believe. True, we were offered a watch or a pair of sunglasses on one occasion, and once someone offered to show us the medina, but that was as far as the hassles went. With its colourful past and busy port, the city still has a raffish air to it, redolent of the days when it was an International Zone and attracted artists and writers. Nevertheless, it offers some interesting places to visit, good accommodation in all price brackets, excellent restaurants and a fascinating medina that isn't too daunting to explore.
One charming guesthouse is La Tangerina, perched right at the top of the Kasbah and overlooking the sea, with views across to Spain.
Next door is the exclusive Nord Pinus guesthouse with equally stunning views. It has fabulously romantic rooms and an excellent restaurant; the retro bar and terraces are perfect for an aperitif.
The Kasbah is a good place to start a wander through the medina. Here you'll find the newly renovated Kasbah Museum set in the Sultan's Gardens. Further down into the medina, Majid's shop is a must-see. Three floors of jewellery, carpets, hendiras, fabrics, embroidery, ceramics and wooden artefacts will have you drooling.
Next stop is the Petit Socco, a small square with lots of cafes where you can watch the world go by.
Just outside the medina, The American Legation is definitely worth a visit. Entry is free to this beautiful Moorish house that houses maps of Morocco, a room devoted to Tangier resident Paul Bowles and fine art by various artists including James McBey: the famous portrait of his servant has earned the title of Morocco's Mona Lisa.
After all this walking, you'll have earned a glass of mint tea in one of the cafes surrounding the Grand Socco, or even a drink in the Caid's Bar at the old-fashioned but stylish El Minzah Hotel.
Where to eat in Tangier
A excellent option in the medina is the newly-opened Le Nabab at 4 Rue Al Kadiria (ph 0661 442 220). Set in a well-restored former souk, it has interesting decor, very friendly service and good traditional fare. There's a fireplace for cold winter nights, and musical events on some weekends.
Our favourite for dinner was Les Passagers de Tangier, overlooking the Grand Socco. The food was refreshingly different and of a very high standard. The View from Fez team sampled coquilles St Jacques in a garlicky sauce, and the magret de canard with mango and peach sauce. There's a terrace as well as comfortable seating inside.