When it comes to accessible travel, I hate itineraries with a lot of moving parts. They just present more opportunities for things to go wrong, especially when you travel solo like I do. But once a year I get to travel with my best friend Erin, and I save more complicated trips for her—partly because I’ll have help, but also because we know how to turn adversity into adventures. This year, we decided to visit Madrid (Spain), take a train down to Gibraltar for a few days, and while there, make a day trip by ferry down to Tangier, Morocco. It was definitely challenging, but well worth the effort!
If you’re thinking this is something you may want to try, I need to explain the requirements before I continue. There are no wheelchair accessible taxis in Tangier. You need to be able to transfer (with or without assistance) into a minivan taxi or a hired sedan. Your mobility aid also needs to come apart or fold into a size that can fit into a minivan or sedan trunk. I hired Aziz Benami tours in Tangier for a six-hour driving and walking/rolling excursion, and while they normally do this in a minivan, they made special arrangements (for an extra fee) to provide us with a Mercedes Benz E-Class sedan that I could transfer into. My Whill Ci power chair breaks down into three pieces that fit into the trunk.
While doing research for this tour, I reached out to Ichen El Houssaine, an accessible travel representative for the Moroccan Ministry of Tourism. He recommended several wheelchair accessible locations to visit in Tangier, which I shared with Aziz Benami to craft our itinerary. As part of the tour package, they included our ferry tickets between the Spanish port of Tarifa and Tangier.
Erin and I started our day early in Gibraltar to make sure we arrived on time for our ferry departure at 11:00AM. We booked a wheelchair taxi to take us from our hotel to the border with Spain (which taxis can’t cross). We then walked/rolled through immigration, crossed the street to La Línea, and met up with our scheduled Eurotaxi to take us the roughly 45 minutes from La Línea to the FRS ferry port in Tarifa. Once there, we provided our vouchers, got our tickets, and arranged to be escorted onto the ferry.
Boarding the ferry was pretty easy. The FRS representative took us through the main vehicle bay and to a ramped doorway into the main cabin area. There are accessible restrooms on board the ferry, although I would recommend using the accessible toilet at the port as the sea conditions are unpredictable and the ferry can bounce around quite a bit. There are no designated wheelchair seats or areas, but there’s plenty of space to park during the crossing. There is to ramped access to the outer deck.
Once we arrived at the Tangier port, our guide Morad and driver were waiting for us. The Tangier port toilet is accessible, and I would recommend using it before you go since you probably won’t have toilet access during your tour. We crossed a busy street to a large parking area, where I transferred into the Mercedes and Erin got my Whill Ci power chair situated in the trunk. Then we were off!
The first half of our tour took us through the more modern parts of Tangier, where I saw good signs of access, like ramps and curb drops. We then drove through expensive residential areas where several government officials and royals have homes. Then we headed towards the breathtaking coastline where the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea meet.
Our first stop was at the Hercules Cave, which consists of a stunning overlook of the rugged coastline and beaches right next to a beautiful plaza and the cave entrance. The cave itself is partially carved out by the pounding wave activity, and has also been expanded through manual excavation. There are no steps down into the cave, which was a pleasant surprise for me and Erin. However, it’s a cave, which means the stone pavers on the steep paths are constantly wet. Even with my brakes full on, I needed Erin and Morad to hold on to each side of my chair to keep it from sliding uncontrollably.
Once we made it to the bottom, it was a beautiful sight to see the cave opening to the ocean and the water rushing into the hollow. We were able to see several rooms within the cave where they hold different meetings and events, including for schoolchildren. Fortunately, the slippery climb back up to the cave entrance was much easier than the descent.
After our cave visit, we began the walking/rolling portion of the tour by heading to the Kasbah and medina. Erin and I commented that wandering through the maze-like passageways of the medina reminded us so much of the Old City in Jerusalem. Thank goodness we had Morad as our guide or we never would have found our way out! We were endlessly greeted warmly by the nicest people, saw dozens of kids running and playing, and had glimpses of local life through doorways and around corners. Morad taught us all about local herbs and spices and what they’re used for, and explained how the food vendors bring their olives and fruits and vegetables to the market from rural areas. Erin and I couldn’t get over the vibrant colors and unique architecture; even the crumbling walls had a unique and beautiful character.
Thanks to Morad, we avoided the busy tourist parts of the medina until the end of the tour. We were able to sample some pure organic argan oil without hassle and explore local crafts and goods without feeling rushed or harassed. Towards the end, Erin and I did venture on our own for a bit down the main shopping drag to buy some souvenirs, and while we were approached more frequently without Morad with us, we never felt unsafe or uncomfortable.
Finally, we transferred back into the Mercedes for the 45-minute ferry ride back to Tarifa. The ferry on the return was different, and I took a very small electric lift to the passenger deck from the vehicle bay. This ferry was packed with people, so once we found a spot we didn’t move until we arrived. We had to take a sedan taxi back from Tarifa to La Línea since we weren’t able to arrange a wheelchair taxi ahead of time, and we just used the accessible Gibraltar buses to get from the Frontier to our hotel.
While Tangier is definitely not the most wheelchair friendly city, it was so worth the extra effort we made to get there. If you have the physical ability and portable mobility equipment, I would highly recommend touring with Aziz Benami and enjoying all the kindness, sights, sounds, and beauty Tangier has to offer!