This is something I posted on the IgoUgo travel site (now defunct) seven years ago.
For a first time visitor wanting a taste of Africa, Tangier on the coast of Morocco is ideal. It’s African, it’s Arabic, it’s Muslim. And it’s cosmopolitan. Just a few miles from the European coast, it may be the most European city in North Africa.
The French have been here, and the Spanish. Street signs are in Arabic and French. Your Euros spend directly at many establishments, but you may also exchange them for the local dirham. As of January 2009 it’s about 8 dirhams to the dollar, down from 11 two years ago. Don’t get more dirhams than you need. They cannot legally be exported, and outside banks won’t take them. Many restaurants do not take credit cards.
Northern Morocco is mountainous, and Tangier slopes steeply down to the waterfront. Walking about will give you a good workout, but taxis are cheap by U.S. standards. I paid about $5 for a trip to the railway terminal—would have cost me extra for additional passengers or luggage.
Compared to some Muslim countries, Morocco is decidedly open-minded. Lot’s of women go around bare-headed, and you can get a drink in the restaurant. Expect the traditional call to prayers in the evening, but there are also synagogues and Protestant and Catholic churches. And, there’s Pizza Hut, and McDonald’s.
Close by the ferry landing is the medina, the original walled city. Walk down from the hotel and find one of the openings into the Medina. Stroll the twisting, narrow streets and take in the many markets and the brightly-painted fronts. It’s not just business. People live here, and their houses blend with the adjacent shops and offices. The scents of exotic cooking come from many doors.
A great tradition is the evening stroll. Head down Mohamed V after dark and encounter thousands of people clogging the sidewalks. Groups of up to five women will be walking side-by-side, arms interlocked, taking in the evening. It’s no time to be in a hurry.
Eat well. We skipped the American style shops and dined on pasta at an establishment near the hotel. The mint tea is a must. The waiter brought out a pot to serve our party of four. Our dessert was an ice cream dish that most resembled Neapolitan. We went back the next two nights, as well.