Unless you hire an expensive guide and private driver, there are only two choices of transportation... the bus, or what they call a "grand" taxi"!
It's only about 64 kms (40 miles) distance...
64 kms (40 miles) from Tangier to Tetouan.
The CMT bus can be taken from the main Gare (station). It only leaves four times per day, and costs 25 dirham ($3.50 CAD, $2.70 USD). But, you have to take a free shuttle from there to CMT's station on the outskirts of town and then transfer. So it takes about an hour and a half. Or, there are several smaller bus companies in the station, but none have schedules posted and you have to ask around to find out details. Not easy unless you have strong French or Arabic language skills, which we do not!
And so we chose the (slightly) more expensive "grand" taxi. There are two types of taxis in Morocco...the "petit" taxi...a small vehicle that is regulated to stay in town and is used for mostly short rides which are shared with other people (although you can pay more to be private), or the "grand" taxi...a larger vehicle where you pay by the seat...although you can purchase all the seats and have a private ride if you wish! Grand taxis often travel between towns.
Fancy cruise ship in Tangier port.
We found the grand taxis waiting at GPS 35.771962, -5.801852. It's a bit of a busy area, with many taxis waiting and people coming and going. You just have to ask the guy who looks to be in charge of loading the taxis, and you only need to mention your destination and they point you in the right direction!
Most of the grand taxis are older four door Mercedes cars from the 1970's and 1980's! Diesel engines, so they keep on ticking. They probably have a million miles on them! These cars are designed to have two people in the front, and three people in the back. But here in Morocco, they pack you in to keep costs down. Three in the front, and four in the back!
So we paid 30 dirhams ($4.25 CAD, $3.30 USD) each and squeezed in the back beside a younger woman and an older man. Not sure what happens if a few "larger" people all wanted in the same vehicle. It was a tight squeeze...but it's only for 45 minutes or so.
We got under way, and the younger woman asked in Spanish if we were from Spain. No, we replied, Canada. She also spoke quite good English. We had a good conversation with Sara, and she was very helpful. One of the reasons we were heading to Tetouan was to try and match up two more of my dad's pictures. I had transferred them to the phone. She had a look at them, but couldn't quite place them. Then, she suggested that I email one of them to her and she would post it to a group of her friends who live in Tetouan and maybe one of them could pinpoint the location. Ha! The magic of cellular technology!
Sure enough, one of her friends knew where it was! Wow! The other photo was of a market scene and we thought it was going to be impossible to find.
Also, I was curious about getting to Tangier airport early on Friday morning. I though maybe Sara might know the best way to get there. The airport is located about 15 kms out of Tangier and believe it or not, there is no public transportation. Sara spoke to the driver in Arabic, and he said that you need to take a taxi, and it will cost about 120 dirhams ($17 CAD, $13 USD) for the two of us and our bags.
When we arrived at the Tetouan bus station (GPS 35.561445, -5.371937), Sara and the driver got to talking, and he offered to pick us up at 6:30am Friday morning and do the run to the airport for 100 dirhams ($14.00 CAD, $11 USD). We agreed on a meeting place, and hopefully it will all go according to plan. He only speaks Arabic, and we only know two or three words!
So there's that done. Thanks again to Sara. What a nice girl. We said our goodbyes, and set off to explore the town.
Tetouan has some nearby mountains.
Most people don't stop in Tetouan because it is more popular to go another hour further south to Chefchaouen. So Tetouan isn't much of a tourist town, although it's certainly worth visiting. The entire medina (ancient walled part of town) is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it's quite a scenic town.
Sara had said that the first photo of our search was located across from the old El Jadida gate. But when we got there, it was just an old building, but the front doors were open wide. So we went in, and it was some kind of museum. We showed the photo to the guard, and he went to get someone who spoke English. Sure enough, the photo was here but it was in the courtyard so there was no way we would have found it without Sara's help!
Dad's photo, 1954.
It's really tough to duplicate the focal length of the lens. Especially when you're just viewing the original on a tiny smartphone screen in less than ideal lighting. I should have been standing further back, with the camera much lower, and zoomed in a little more. Oh well...at least we were there and that is amazing to us.
We're not even sure what the building was. Some kind of museum, and we had to pay 10 dirhams ($1.40 CAD, $1.10 USD) to get in to access the courtyard. And there really wasn't much else to see, except the main room was really well done.
The main room.
The next project was going to be really hard to match up. It was simply a street scene in the market, and it was marked "Arab Quarter, Tetouan". That was all we had to go by. We assumed it had to be in the medina, which is a maze of narrow streets and alleyways... and of course it was 63 years later... a lot would have changed. Or so we thought.
As we were wandering through the medina, I spotted three police officers. I figured, what the heck, maybe I'll show them the old picture and maybe they would recognize it. I asked if they spoke English, and one guy replied "yes, a little". And all three of them smiled and said "Welcome to Morocco!" Nice guys.
I explained to him what we were looking for, and why. He said "63 years ago?" I said "yes"...
I showed him the photo, and he smiled again "Yes, I know this place".
What? Seriously? We figured this was going to be difficult. He told us to walk a little further up and then turn right. Sure enough, we had been only steps away!
And it had hardly changed at all. We can't believe how similar it was after 63 years! There was some stuff in the way to try and get in what might have been the same spot my father had stood...but we did our best. Then, we moved a little to get the same view, but at a bit of a different angle...
Dad's photo from 1954.
Taken yesterday from about the same spot.
There was too much stuff in the way, so I took another photo from a different spot, but without the stuff.
Wow. How little it has changed!
As we were standing there, an older guy came by and asked in English if we were okay. Yes, and we told him what we were doing. He was amazed. Wow...63 years later!
It was so satisfying to find that same market scene when we had though it was going to be one of the more difficult match ups.
With that done, we wandered some more of the medina. It was market day in Tetouan, and the whole area was like a giant garage sale!
The plumbing guy!
The pastry guy!
We splurged on a couple of big pieces of flan.
Only 3 dirhams ($0.42 CAD, $0.33 USD) each!
From there, we went outside the medina to see some of the modern city...
Plaza in Tetouan.
Want to sell something? Anything?
Just lay out a blanket and you're in business.
The entire day we didn't get hassled by anybody and everybody was friendly. A refreshing change from places like Marrakech! Even in the medina, you could look at things and nobody bothered you. We liked Tetouan! It was the real Morocco, not the tourist Morocco.
Other than a couple of snacks, we had skipped lunch. It was now about 4:00pm and we were getting hungry. I googled "best tajine in Tetouan", and the answer was the #1 rated hotel in Tetouan, the Blanco Riad Hotel and Restaurant. And, reader "X" has said... "don't be so cheap!" So we went for it.
When you're not in the tourist area, even nice places are reasonably priced.
Snacks and fresh lemonade.
The meal was delicious and tender. Total bill for the two of us including tip was 210 dirham ($29.60 CAD, $22.50 USD). To put things in perspective, it was the same price as that ripoff streetfood meal we had in Marrakech!
Wonderful little hotel and restaurant.
We could easily return to this area. Non touristy, and very close to the mountains and lots of hiking.
We walked back to the bus station, and found the stand for the grand taxis going to Tangier. Sure enough, it was another 30 dirhams each and we crowded into the back seat with two other people. Longer ride back because of some traffic problems, and it sure was good to get out and stretch when we arrived. The two big guys sitting together in the one front passenger seat sure did stretch as well. We looked at each other and smiled and laughed. Life in Morocco!
We sure did have a good day.
For a comfy bed...
And in Canada...