I’ve taken my girls all around the world, and my mother never blinked an eye until Morocco. She had a really tough time with the country. She couldn’t really tell me why. She was just worried. I think it was that whole dark, sultry Africa thing … better known as the unknown.
Morocco, more specifically Tangier, is the only traveling many people will ever do in Africa. It was never on the top of my list. We were headed to Spain, and when my husband realized it was only about an hour’s trip by ferry, the deal was done. Africa!
Head to Tarifa, Spain, and spend the night — it’s a great beachside city to play in with the kids. Then jump on a ferry first thing in the morning. Unless your family’s truly the adventurous type, book a private tour of Tangier.
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We told our guide right off the bat we were much more interested in the people than the shops. He listened. Going with a private tour also provides you with shelter from the hustlers that have given Tangier its shady reputation. They’re out there, but they’re apt to leave you alone rather than suffer the wrath of your angry tour guide.
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Morocco’s official currency is dirhams, but we found that pretty much everywhere accepted Euros. Even though the exchange rate is not as good, it wasn’t worth dealing with another currency for a day. For any big purchases, just pull out your credit card.
My kids couldn’t wait to get on a camel, but even they enjoyed our private car tour through the neighborhoods of Tangier We saw middle-class areas, upper-class areas, schools and, go figure, a pet cemetery. Even going the long way, we beat the crowds to the camels. Having your choice of camels as a kid … priceless!
In old-town Tangier, many families make their own bread, but they don’t have ovens to bake it in. The neighborhood bakery is really the neighborhood oven. Use your nose to find one and peek in. We were greeted with smiles whenever we discovered a warm batch of bread fresh out of the oven.
While many Americans head to Costco and shop for the week, in Tangiers folks buy what they need, when they need it. That means fabulous fruits, vegetables and herbs. Many locals make their living selling fresh greens right on the street. They set up just about everywhere: in alleyways, on stairs, wherever there’s foot traffic.
Homes in the old town don’t have front yards, but the doors are so amazing you won’t even notice. People in Tangiers aren’t afraid of color, and the vibrant hues scattered throughout seem to invite you to explore. Have your kids hunt for their favorite color of the rainbow. The doors are a small part of what gives the city its colorful vibe.
Everyone has different levels of bravery when eating abroad. Trust your intuition. We didn’t eat any street food, as our tour guide told us not to. Pack extra snacks for the family and don’t drink anything that you don’t see come straight out of a bottle. (Bottled water and cola are easy to find.) If you’re used to ice, be prepared to do without.
Almost all tours include lunch, so just about everyone you met when your kids rode the camels earlier in the day will join you for the meal. My kids thought the restaurant looked like something out of Aladdin. Soak in the scene — the music and the dancing. Then use your judgment when lunch is served. Although my family wanted nothing to do with the soup, the chicken on skewers was a hit. The chicken was good, but I think it was the orange Fanta served with it, that sent my younger daughter straight to cloud nine. Camel rides and orange soda: It doesn’t get any better.
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