24 Hours in Tangier: Best Things to Do

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Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to 24 hours of the best things to do in Tangier. I am a humble travel blogger, so of course, I’m only speaking the obvious truth when I say that my powers of persuasion are legendary.

I’ve convinced you to visit Beacon, New York, a town entirely populated by a hipster elf mafia. I cajoled you into stopping by Birmingham, Alabama and Los Alamos, New Mexico, even though you had previously never imagined visiting those places. But it will be no great achievement to convince you to spend 24 hours in Tangier.

The name alone conjured up an image of glamour, sophistication, art, literature, amazing things to do, and small citrus fruits. I can think of no city in Morocco more welcoming to foreign tourists. Let’s go and fall under Tangier’s magic spell together.

One remark for any extremely literal Internet Strangers out there. Obviously I’m not advocating that you fly from the United States to Morocco only to spend 24 hours in Tangier. Link this itinerary with time spent in other cities like Fes, Casablanca, Chefchaouen, and of course Marrakesh. You shouldn’t need me to tell you that! You are an adult capable of logical thought!

24 Hours in Tangier: Things to Do

Where to Stay?

The best kind of place to stay in Tangier is a riad. These are gorgeous private houses with courtyards and gardens that have been converted to hotels. My personal favorite for my 24 hours in Tangier is Dar Souran. It’s in a gorgeous historical building, there’s a great breakfast spread, and the breakfast is served on a rooftop with amazing views. You can almost see Spain from the roof!

If you’re looking for a great deal on this hotel, click here. And if you’re looking for great deals on over 700 other hotels in Tangier, click here.

24 Hours in Tangier: Things to Do

What to Pack?

You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.

Morocco can get very hot, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.

Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!

24 hours in tangier

24 Hours in Tangier: Things to Do

Morning: Tangier American Legation Museum

The Tangier American Legation Museum, as the sign says, is the only American historical landmark outside the United States. That’s because Morocco was the first country to recognize the United States as an independent country. They did so back in 1777. That’s amazing because back then we were still years away from defeating the British in the American Revolution. It was quite a gamble for the King of Morocco to bet on the little old US of A against the Red Army. (Pretty sure that’s what the British Army was called. I mean they were the Redcoats, so it’s logical.)

Any American visiting Tangier has to see the Legation Museum in order to fully understand our country’s diplomatic history. But first, breakfast!

24 hours in fes
24 hour treat: breakfast at dar souran

See what I mean about the breakfast at Dar Souran? The building dates back to 1898, and it’s now owned by a Frenchman named Paul Carassou. I speak French, so it was easy for us to communicate. M. Carassou took care of everything, including personally driving me to the train station when it was time for me to continue to Casablanca.

Of course, I care most of all about the food. Fortunately there was a fresh breakfast prepared for me every morning with orange juice, coffee, French pastries, Moroccan pancakes, and assorted fresh jams and olives. Plus you get to dine with this view overlooking the city.

24 hours in fes dar souran

There! How can any day be disappointing that begins with that view? And now we are ready to continue our research at the Legation Museum.

Three fun facts from the Legation museum

american legation museum morocco
1) are morocco and the united states friends?

I’ve already mentioned that there is a long diplomatic tradition between Morocco and the United States. Of course, like any long diplomatic tradition, the relationship has had its ups and downs. In 1834, the Sultan of Morocco wanted to give the American government a really unusual present. He decided the most worthy object would be something we couldn’t naturally find in the United States, a lion.

The American Consul had a problem with this because the United States government isn’t supposed to accept expensive gifts from foreign governments. Unfortunately, he couldn’t send the lion back because this would have angered the sultan and he would have responded by cutting off the poor messenger’s head. So the poor Consul had to house and feed a lion by himself until Congress could decide what to do with it. Anyone familiar with Congress knows that it takes some time for them to come to decisions, even when it comes to the care and feeding of lions.

Eventually Congress decided to sell the lion and nobody got decapitated. Phew! But I bet that Consul was relieved when he got transferred and didn’t have to babysit a lion anymore.

american legation museum morocco
2) were there any spies here?

Being at the American Legation was like stepping back in time when the world was a more dangerous and yet glamorous place. One major incident in the history of American-Moroccan diplomacy was the Perdicaris Affair. In 1904, Ion Perdicaris, an American Daddy Warbucks type, was kidnapped in Morocco by a local brigand named Ahmed ibn-Muhammed Raisuli. Raisuli didn’t seem politically motivated in this instance. Much like Die Hard‘s Hans Gruber, he was in it for the money.

Apparently the resulting issues President Teddy Roosevelt’s government and Morocco almost devolved into armed combat. Fortunately, no blood was shed, Raisuli’s ransom was delivers, Perdicaris was freed, and Raisuli was appointed Pasha of Tangier. This story is completely bonkers. Can you imagine someone kidnapping a rich American today, walking away with a bunch of cash, and getting appointed a pasha. Why has no one made a movie out of this? I bet both the actors playing TR and Raisuli would get Oscar nominations.

american legation museum morocco
3) did any famous americans live in morocco?

Of course the American experience in Tangier hasn’t all been kidnapping and lion feeding. There’s also art, literature, extensive drug use, and kinky sex with strangers. For more information on all of the above, look into late American writer Paul Bowles. He spent decades in Morocco writing his famous novel The Sheltering Sky, having a super dysfunctional relationship with his wife Jane, translating local writers into English, and hanging out with the Beats, Truman Capote, and Tennessee Williams.

It sounds like a wild party, and there’s part of me that would love to travel back to Tangier in the 1950s and 60s and join them. But I think it was too much of a He Man Woman Haters Club to welcome the likes of me.

24 hour tip

Admission to the American Legation Museum is very cheap and they probably won’t have much change available. Try to bring exact change if possible.

24 hours in tangier Kasbah Museum

24 Hours in Tangier: Things to Do

Afternoon: Kasbah Museum

Because of the song “Rock the Kasbah”, the idea of the kasbah has taken on a punk or romantic notion in certain circles. But does everyone who says “Rock the Kasbah” actually know what a kasbah is? It’s basically Arabic for a citadel. Sometimes the term kasbah is used to refer to the old part of a Moroccan city. I don’t think there’s anything particularly punk about defending your city from attack with giant walls! But I’ve always been too girlie to be a punk, so there could be some nuance I am missing.

Anyway, if you’re looking for more deets about the history of Tangier’s kasbah, the Kasbah Museum will give you all the fun facts you could possibly need. But as usual, before we see the sights, we need to eat! We don’t want someone to mistake the rumbling in our tummy with an invasion of the kasbah.

cafe a l'anglaise
24 Hour Treasure: Cafe a l’Anglaise

Gender rules are more strict in Morocco than they are in my hometown of New York City. I mean, in NYC I could probably go around wearing nothing but body paint in Times Square and not get arrested. This would absolutely not fly in Morocco. So I found it a little difficult to know where I was allowed to dine alone as a solo woman in Morocco. I didn’t want to get mistaken for a Lady of the Evening.

Fortunately I found the Cafe a l’Anglaise recommended by the New York Times. It’s run by a woman. Any woman-owned restaurant in Morocco is generally a safe bet for dining as a solo woman. It especially helps if you can speak French or Arabic because not all older women speak English. Also the cafe is adorably decked out in the Union Jack and pictures of Queen Elizabeth II and Jane Austen.

It was the perfect spot to cozy up with a freshly made chicken tagine and a warm pot of that perfect Moroccan mint tea. (A recurring joke Moroccans like to make with tourists is to ask if you want Moroccan whiskey. This is always, always an offer of mint tea. Most Moroccans are practicing Muslims and do not drink whiskey.)

cafe a l'anglaise tangier
24 hour treat: Mint tea and almond cookies

While I was polishing off another mint tea with some house-made almond cookies, I got to meet the owner’s daughter. She was a young local artist and fluent in English. She told me that her uncle owned a bakery in Astoria, Queens. It was so exciting to be halfway around the world and meet someone with an NYC connection! Truly, it is a small world after all.

I hate to leave the cozy Cafe a l’Anglaise, but it’s time to drop some Kasbah knowledge on you. The signs are in French and Arabic only, so I can share what I read on the French signs with you. Let’s head to the Kasbah Museum and find…

Three fun facts: 24 hours in Tangier

Kasbah Museum Tangier things to do
1) how old is tangier?

Now guess again! Tangier dates back to the 10th century BC. And because it’s a port city, it has been international in flavor since its very beginnings. Everyone: Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Berbers, Greeks, Romans, Persians, and Arabs have lived here. The Greeks called the city Tingis, and the Berbers called it Tingi. It didn’t change to Tangier until the Muslims conquered North Africa.

Some people mistakenly think of Morocco as an ethnically homogenous country, but this isn’t true. The Berbers, aka Imazighen, are an ethnic group from North Africa. It was hard for me to entirely figure out what makes someone Berber.

Many Moroccans I met claimed to be Berber, but I wasn’t sure what was the difference between a Berber Moroccan and a non-Berber Moroccan. It seemed to be a combination of family history and speaking a Berber language instead of just Arabic. But I am not an expert on the history of Berbers! I do not wish to offend any of my Imazighen readers out there. If you have better information, feel free to leave a comment.

Kasbah Museum Tangier
2) what do those mosaics mean?

Even if you can’t speak French or Arabic, and therefore can’t read the signs, the Kasbah Museum is still worth visiting for the decor. Tangier was a Roman colony and the Roman mosaic art influenced the mosaics in the Kasbah Museum. In fact the museum itself is located in the palace of a former sultan. So you can see the most cutting-edge mosaics on display in the halls and courtyards of the museum.

Of course the Islamic influence on the palace’s design is also obvious in the various geometric patterns used in the palace decor. Remember that representing humans is generally not done in Islamic art. Designs that resemble stars, plants, or abstract shapes is much more common. That’s why you’ll only see those mosaics of faces in actual Roman ruins, before the arrival of Islam in Tangier in the early 700s.

Kasbah Museum Tangier
3) is tangier related to tangerines?

The highlight of the Kasbah Museum, as with any fine home in Morocco, is the courtyard garden. Gardens have a religious significance in Islam because they are supposed to symbolize heaven. And I have to say that being in your own private courtyard garden is as close as I am likely to get in this vale of tears.

The best thing about this particular garden is that it’s full of tangerines. I feel highly ridiculous because I’ve eaten many a tangerine in my day, but I never realized that they come from Tangier. Their fragrance makes the garden feel even more like paradise.

PS. Do not steal one of the tangerines and eat it. It’s very rude to steal citrus fruit from a museum.

24 hours in tangier

24 Hours in Tangier: Things to Do

Late Afternoon: Explore Tangier

As I’ve said all the time on this blog, I believe in spending the hours between 5 and 7 exploring randomly. There is no better city on earth to do this in than Tangier. The winding streets and alleys of the medina are perfect for exploring with random abandon. I don’t want to give you too much direction because it defeats the purpose of exploring randomly. But here are a few things you can find.

24 hours in tangier


24 hours in tangier

A garden someone randomly planted in the middle of a mysteriously blue alleyway. Also a cat in the distance.

24 hours in tangier

Street art that temporarily confused me. This is not an actual alleyway. You cannot walk through this door.

24 hours in tangier

A cat.

24 hours in tangier

A Jewish cemetery.

24 hours in tangier

And yet another cat. Moroccans love cats. Apparently one reason is that Mohammed loved cats and considered them to be clean animals. Any culture that loves kitties is A-OK by me!

24 hours in tangier

24 Hours in Tangier: Things to Do

Evening: Street Meat and Cinema

I felt a bit nervous going out alone by myself in Morocco. No one ever hassled me, but I was repeatedly told it’s not culturally accepted for a woman to go out at night alone. So I decided to play it safe. But one thing you definitely can do as a solo woman is go to town on some street food.

My dinner on my first 24 hours in Tangier was a sandwich from a street kiosk with a long line full of Moroccans. This is always a good sign when looking for street food. I was the only female on line but no one looked at me askance. Perhaps this is because I was dressed very modestly with only my hands and head uncovered. Or maybe these dudes were all just super chill! Don’t want to make assumptions.

I ordered what appeared to be the special, which was a chicken sandwich with a fried egg and French fries. This was delicious because the cook put the fries in the sandwich so the fried egg yolk got all soaked into the fries. The only thing that can make French fries more delicious is adding another kind of fat on top.

24 hours in tangier
24 hour treasure: cinema rif

If you’re looking for a safe and comfortable evening out in Tangier, stop in for a flick at the Cinema Rif. This historic theater dates to the 1930s, and it’s located in the Grand Socco, which is one of the most prominent squares in Tangier. They show all kinds of films, from American to Moroccan.

The cinema is one of the centers of progressive Tangier. For proof, you can see that one of the titles of the movies on the marquee is Larmes de Satan, which translates to Satan’s Tears. Also, you can get a beer at the cafe and no one will look at you askance. (Alcohol is not illegal in Morocco, though it’s not always easy to find.)

That’s 24 Hours in Tangier: Things to Do

What would you do with 24 hours in Tangier? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Tangier? What do you think Satan’s Tears is about? And how did this Moroccan cat follow me home? Will I ever be able to get him out from under my bed? Please leave your thoughts below.

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that just because this itinerary is for 24 hours in Tangier, that doesn’t mean you should only spend 24 hours in Tangier. If you have another 24 hours in Tangier and want to visit Chefchaouen the Blue Pearl, try this itinerary. If you want to head to the big city of Casablanca, try this itinerary.

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