Tetouan, originally known as Titawin and nicknamed as White Dove, is a port city located alongside the Martil Valley in northern Morocco. This spectacular city sits at the foot of the Rif Mountains. On arrival, visitors marvel at the beauty of its whitewashed houses clustered on the side of the verdant hill and the shore of Mediterranean Sea. Tetouan sees less tourists when compared to Tangier and other neighboring cities, therefore an air of authenticity can be sensed throughout the place. The ancient medina and other old architectures in the city look like they have not changed in centuries.
The city was of great importance during the 8th century Islamic era. The city also served as refuge for the Andalusians who were expelled by the Spanish in the 15th century. White Dove is renowned for the Andalusian influence that reflects in the Hispano-Moorish character of its white buildings and Ensanche.
Sightseeing Sites in Tetouan
There are plenty of sites in Tetouan where one can go sightseeing.
The city’s medina is the smallest in Morocco, but one of the best maintained and complete as well. Save a few restorations, the medina has stood untouched since the 17th century. The antiquated architecture and historical significance have garnished it as UNESCO World Heritage. Surrounded by a beautiful concoction of Andalusian, Berber, and Jewish quarters, the Medina bears witness to the exchange of influences in Tetouan. The area is fortified by historic walls, approximately 5 km long, and can be accessed by seven gates.
Several notable public buildings and monuments from 15th-17th century can be found in the narrow streets of the Medina, including old mosques, museums, Kasbahs, funduqs, shops, and zawayas.
While, the city is built on the shoulders of three distinct cultures, its Medina testifies to this diversity. The small size of the medina lets you saunter through the six centuries in just one day.
The bustling marketplace is settled in the Medina. Brimmed with people of the city, the souk a fun and busy place to barter for goods. There are several small stalls in the souk that sell delicious native snacks. El Fouki Market is where the locals buy their bread. A variety of breads and loaves are sold in different shapes and sizes. Clothing and textile products are sold in the Guersa El Kebira, while the El Hot Market is where you go for ceramic, gold, and handcrafted objects.
Shopping and markets are an integral part of a place, and exploring them will bring you closer to people and their lifestyle.
Ville Nouvelle or the new city is sited along Avenue Mohammed V. New buildings and modern cafés give the place its identity. Go there to have a refreshing cup of mint tea or hot coffee, while watching people go by their routine. Be a spectator to the lavish beauty of the Royal Palace and the adjacent Pasha Mosque. Both are situated alongside the plaza of Place Hassan II. A little further from the plaza is the old Spanish cathedral, Iglesia de Bacturia.
This amalgamation of the modern and the ancient is bound to blow your mind!
Flanking the southeast side of Tetouan is the picturesque beauty of the Rif Mountains. The verdant hills are a paradise for those seeking adventure and sports. There are several activities that will make your visit to the Rif an indelible experience. You can go hiking, trekking, mountain biking, or bird watching in the mountains. Pleasant atmosphere, fresh air, and a break from the Moroccan heat make them a pleasant retreat from the city’s clamor. You can take a long walk in the Talassemtane National Park and Bouhachem Nature Reserve, which are both located in the Rif Mountain region.
10 km east of the city is the fishing port of Martil. Sounds of crashing waves and the aroma of seafood cooking fills in the nonchalant atmosphere of the place. Popular among the Moroccans, this coastal resort is usually flocked in the months of July and August. The buildings are more modern as compared to those of Tetouan. Plenty of seaside restaurants are available to decide your menu of the day. Sandy beaches of Martil make for a fun summer holiday.
Cabo Negro Beach
Located 13 km away from Tetouan, the Cabo Negro Beach is yet another coastal resort to unwind. The wide shoreline with crystal-clear water, in the brightest hues of blue, create a spellbinding sight. The beach is heavily populated during July and August, the best to visit it is in before and after those months.
Apart from the scenic beauty of the sea and rich cultural and architectural history, Tetouan also offers a variety of finger-licking good food items. For the foodies who love to taste the best of new places, the coastal city has riads and restaurants where you can enjoy Moroccan cuisine in the most authentic Moroccan ambience.
Blanco Riad – Go here to taste some innovative Moroccan dishes other than the standard tajine. No alcohol is served in the restaurant.
El Reducto – Go here to enjoy delicious desserts and alcohol in Moroccan-Spanish surroundings, which once belonged to Moroccan vizier.
Restaurant Restinga – The open-air courtyard of this restaurant is an inviting venue to dine in or chill with a beer.
Snack Taouss – Snacks like burgers and chips are the specialties of this restaurant. Syrian influence and delicious shawarma will make your evening memorable.
Dallas – Named after the famous TV show, this patisserie is a popular favorite among the locals. It’s a must-visit for tourists with a sweet tooth.
If you its seafood you are looking for, then the restaurants on the seashores in Martil and Cabo Negro Beach are sure to satiate your salty cravings.
Lively and full of sights, Tetouan is a splendid tourist spot in Morocco that should not go unexplored. It is a wonderful and surprising getaway from the expected Sahara Desert and mudbrick houses of Morocco. A fine mix modern and archaic, Spanish and Islamic, Tetouan is a complete world in its own. Missing this coastal city means you will never get to know a side of the country.