What You Need To Know about Tangier
Guarding the Strait of Gibraltar, Tangier has for centuries been Europes’s gateway to Africa. Its blend of cultures and influences is unique in Morocco – for much of its history it wasn’t even governed by Morocco.
Tangier has always carried a slightly seedy allure, in part due to its time as a semi-independent international zone that attracted eccentric foreigners, artists and spies. Officially sanctioned neglect later gave it a dismal reputation, and visitors were often quick to flee its sleaze and hustle.
Contemporary Tangier could hardly be more different. Investment has flowed in and the white city gleams with an air of confidence. The corniche bustles, entrepreneurs in the new business district have replaced the hustlers, and a new marina is under construction, along with the new TGV train line to Casablanca. Tangier’s cultural life is buzzing in a way it hasn’t done since the 1950s.
Population: 947,952 (2014)
- The official currency of Morocco is the Moroccan Dirham, denoted as MAD or Dhs. The Moroccan Dirham is composed of 100 centimes; notes are available in denominations of (Dhs) 200, 100, 50, 25, and 20, all in new and old varieties and coins are available in denominations of (Dhs) 10, 5, 2 and 1, or 50, 20, 10 and 5 centimes.
- The Dirham is officially designated as a closed currency meaning it can only be traded within Morocco , however, Dirhams are being sold and bought in travel agencies and at major airports in several countries. The import and export of the currency is tolerated up to a limit of 1000DH. Currency purchased during a visit to Morocco should be converted back before departing the country, with the exception of the 1000Dh level. Travellers should be advised to keep the receipts of currency exchange, as these will be required for the conversion of Dirham back to foreign currency prior to departure and before you go through passport control. You can change as many Dirhams as you have left.
- Most of the main foreign currencies may be exchanged at a Bureau de Change in the airport or port upon arrival, at a bank and in most hotels although smaller hotels in more remote areas may not be able to exchange large amounts at one time without prior notice.Most hotels will exchange at the same rate as banks and without charging commission. Exchanging money in the street is illegal, so travellers should look for an official Bureaux de Change which is identifiable by a golden sign.
- ATMs can now be found in abundance in most towns and accept Visa, Maestro, Cirrus etc but these will usually incur charges. You should check with your bank as charges for using ATMs abroad may make exchanging cash a better option.
Using a credit card (VISA etc) to obtain money from ATM’s is also possible but one must remember that interest is charged from the moment money is dispensed. The normal practice of an interest-free period which applies to purchases, typically over 50 days, made on the card does NOT apply to cash withdrawals. Banks will allow cheques to be cashed but must be supported by a guarantee card.
ATMs generally dispense only 100 and 200 dirham notes so getting change for small everyday purchases like water, taxis etc can be a challenge. At weekends you may have difficulty acquiring cash as machines are sometimes not restocked until the following Monday. Sometimes your card may work in some machines and not others, or may support smaller withdrawals rather than larger ones, and may work at some times and not others. You should ensure you have a backup means of funding your visit. ATMs usually dispense 3000dh or so, but other limits may apply dependent on your bank.
Tangier has a mediterranean climate (Köppen Csa) with heavier rainfall than most parts of North Africa and nearby areas on the Iberian Peninsula owing to its exposed location. The summers are relatively hot and sunny and the winters are wet and mild: frost is rare.
Most of the inhabitants of Tangier speak the Darija, mainly influenced by Spanish. About 25% of the city inhabitants speak Berber in their daily lives. Tangerian, as the residents refer to their language, is different from the rest of Morocco, with a lexicon derived from Berber, Spanish, English, and old Tangerian words. Written Arabic is used in government documentation and on road signs together with French. French is used in universities and large businesses. English and Spanish are well understood in all hotels and tourist areas.
Health and security
- Health care services in Morocco have evolved in line with the country’s epidemiological transition, facilitated by heightened surveillance of health-related conditions and the maturing role carried out by the private sector.
Maternal health care in particular has improved significantly over the past 10 years, with the maternal mortality ratio dropping from 227 deaths per 100,000 live births to 112, and infant mortality declining from 40 deaths per 1000 live births to 30.2, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). This can in large part be attributed to efforts targeting better access to maternal and child health care services, as well as increased awareness on the necessity to seek medical assistance throughout pregnancy and after.
Morocco has also made significant strides in reducing the prevalence of infectious diseases, and has eradicated polio, trachoma and malaria, thanks to a variety of programmes to raise awareness on how to treat and prevent communicable illnesses, in addition to expanded vaccination campaigns and the introduction of new medicines into the market. Though largely under control, diseases such as hepatitis are still prevalent and efforts are under way to curb the number of affected patients.
- Tangier is a relatively safe and peaceful city. The only trouble you may encounter is the persistent touts whom you should ignore, or the con-men ready to overcharge you. You will encounter these characters mostly in and around the medina and along the beach front promenade. Some touts are obvious while others may present themselves as friendly locals. The latter, referred to sometimes as ‘false guides’, will quickly begin to you give you a tour of the town and accompany you for as long as they can, then ask you for money. The longer they accompany you, the more aggressive they can seem if you do not want to pay them for their time.Generally, tourists have every opportunity to firmly and clearly decline these touts straight away. Ceasing to engage and ignoring the touts is also highly effective, and can be done in a way that is polite. ‘La Shukran’ means ‘No Thank You’ and when said as if you mean it, is very effective in reclaiming your space.
- Always negotiate the price and conditions of the guidance before you follow him. Probably it won’t be easy to do that, as they can approach you not as guides, but as someone kindly making conversation and then they’ll say “you give what you think it’s fair”. Even after according a price, be prepared to have hassles at the time of paying, as they will be expecting more and will come up with arguments to make you feel guilty of some offence to them or insensible to their hard life.
- Safety could be a concern, but only if you are traveling arriving late at night or are alone. If you are taking a ferry over from Spain, you will might be pressured into getting a “guide” to show you around the city. Be warned that you will most likely be given a little tour but then taken to a “School of Rugmaking” where you’ll be pressured into purchasing overpriced rugs/blankets. Ideally, you should have a map of the city before you arrive along with accommodations and arrangements on how to get to them.
- Tangier’s Medina (Old City) tumbles down the cliff towards the ocean in a labyrinth of narrow alleyways. The central vortex of Medina life is the square known as the Petit Socco, where old men sit for hours drinking tea and playing backgammon. During its fast-paced past, the Medina was a playground for author Paul Bowles and America’s legendary Beatnik literary figures such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs. Wandering around this area is a must for Tangier visitors.
- Tangier’s Ville Nouvelle (New City) is a must for fans of late 19th and early 20th century architecture as it features many fine buildings from this time period. Here you’ll find the Terrasse des Paresseux (Terrace of the Idle) where you can look out at the spectacular ocean view that has captivated so many European artists. With the harbour before you, look across the water for the hazy silhouettes of Gibraltar and southern Spain in the distance.