Tetouan is a jewel of a town in a striking location at the foot of the Rif Mountains, and just a few kilometres from the sea. It’s unlike Tangier or the imperial cities in that it has not yet been discovered by foreign tourists. There is an air of authenti- city here that adds great value to a visit. The ancient medina, a Unesco World Heritage site, looks like it has not changed in several centuries. There have been some recent upgrades – a modern bus station, restorations to the medina wall, some public gardens – but nothing like the towns along the coast. The city is poised on the edge of discovery and in the words of one hotelier, is about to ‘explode’. To the savvy traveller, this spells opportunity.
From 1912 until 1956 Tetouan was the capital of the Spanish protectorate, which encompassed much of northern Morocco. This and the town’s long relationship with Andalucia have left it with a Hispano-Moorish character that is unique in Morocco, as physically reflected in the Spanish part of the city, known as the Ensanche (extension), whose white buildings and broad boulevards have been restored to their original condition.
The Ensanche is centred on Pl Moulay el-Mehdi and the pedestrian stretch of Ave Mohammed V, which runs east to Plaza Al-Jala. Here you’ll find hotels, banks and places to eat. The entrance to the medina is off the grand Pl Hassan II, which faces the Royal Palace. The rest of the sprawling town has little to offer the visitor.