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A Photo Tour of the Colorful Tetouan Medina in Morocco

Cones of orange- and gold-colored spices.

Squawking chickens.

Mounds of aubergine and tomatoes and lemons.

And uh oh, what’s that over there? Sheep and goat heads!

It’s market day in Tetouan, and we’re strolling the get-lost labyrinth of narrow alleys and streets in the Tetouan Medina (also known as the Antigua Medina).

Tetouan Medina

Touring the Tetouan Medina

Tetouan Medina
We’re checking out the colorful Tetouan Medina in Morocco

We’ve been cruising the Canary Islands and Morocco on the deluxe Seabourn Odyssey.

Today our ship has docked in Tangier about an hour’s drive away.

When we looked at what to do in Tangier on a shore excursion, we picked this Tangier day trip to Tetouan.

Tetouan Medina wall
A wall, three miles long, encircles the Tetouan Medina

Tetouan is one of the oldest cities in Morocco, found at the base of the Rif Mountains.

The Medina of Tetouan (medina means the old part of a city) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Most Arabic medinas are surrounded by a wall; the Tetouan Medina is encircled by a thick stone wall accessed through seven gates.

Originally settled by the Romans way back when, Tetouan was resettled by Andalusian refugees around 1492, and has been continuously lived in ever since.

Tetouan Medina
The faithfully preserved medina is dominated by mostly white buildings

Today, Tetouan is home to about 321,000 inhabitants from a melange of races and religions – Spanish, Jewish, Arabic.

What makes this medina special is that unlike, say, Marrakesh (where honeymooners lounge by deluxe riad pools before strolling its medina at night with its snake charmers and souvenirs), Tetouan sees very few international visitors.

As we gawk and gape, we don’t notice any other Western faces among the Moroccan people. (How rare is that when you travel now!)

Morocco old woman
An old woman walks slowly through the medina

The Tetouan Medina feels very authentic and real – a place where locals live and mingle and bargain, not a contrived attraction trying to look exotic for tourists.

An authentic Morocco souk

Stuffed with some 40,000 shops (so our guide tells us), the Tetouan Medina is one of the oldest souks in the world.

As it’s market day, workers from nearby farms are in town.

Berber women wear big hats, like Mexican sombreros, decorated with flowers and pom-poms.

Tetouan medina
A Berber farm woman wears a traditional hat


Because the souk is geared more to locals, if you want to do any souvenir or personal shopping in Morocco, you’re probably better off to do that in Marrakech.

We’re instructed by our guide to follow each other, one after the other in a single file, so we don’t get lost.

Then we squeeze through jostling shoppers, past a scrolling filmstrip of traditional scenes – carpet sellers, a cobbler hammering a shoe, stalls with leather bags and ladies’ long dresses, weavers, sardines and other silvery fish displayed on ice, spice merchants…

Tetouan Medina pharmacy
Tetouan medina henna powder
Tetouan Medina vegetables
Tetouan Medina chickens
The Tetouan Medina bustles with commerce and life!

Cats slink around our feet.

A woman tries to sell us blankets.

A butcher shouts at us for trying to take his picture, but a tailor calls out “Welcome! Welcome!

Alleys, arches and surprising angles

Wonder if the kitty knows where to go!

Every which way we turn, the crumbling white buildings of the medina yield a different Instagram-worthy view – an alley here, an archway there.

Tetouan Medina
It may be one of the smallest medinas in Morocco, but it’s certainly one of the most interesting!

There doesn’t seem to be any prescribed “route.”

It’s all about soaking up the atmosphere.

Tetouan Medina
A jumble of wires, a wrought iron lamp, a minaret; it’s worth looking up too!

Dar Sana: The school of arts and crafts

Tetouan Dar Sana
Dar Sana: What a beautiful place to learn the traditional artisan skills!

Outside the medina, we visit Dar Sana.

It’s the area’s renowned school of arts and crafts, which teaches and preserves the traditional Moorish arts of wood carving, painting, copper work, embroidery, etc.

Paint pots at school of arts and crafts in Tetouan, Morocco
Tetouan Medina Dar Sana
Master artisans at Dar Sana teach age-old techniques for woodwork, carving, tile-making, ceramics, painting and copper work

Exploring this Morocco souk and medina (with a side-visit to Dar Sana) is definitely one of the best things to do in Tetouan – and perhaps our favorite experience in Morocco.

Admittedly, our Morocco visit is short (two days) – but we’re grateful we get a “taste” of Morocco on our cruise!

What’s it like to have unlimited champagne and caviar on a Seabourn cruise? Find out in our review of Seabourn Cruises!

Tetouan hotels: Blanco Riad

If your Tetouan visit is longer than ours, and you’re researching Tetouan hotels, check out the Blanco Riad.

It’s a small, 18th century riad (house with a garden courtyard in the middle) with eight clean and attractive rooms – we know because we peeked into some of them!

(We suspect Blanco Riad is the best Tetouan hotel; it’s rated the best Tetouan accommodation on TripAdvisor.)

Our shore excursion group ate a delightful lunch here, starting with an array of healthy salads, then lamb tagine with apricots and couscous, followed by traditional sweet pastries and Moroccan mint tea.

And the proprietor was very friendly and welcoming.

Blanco Riad

Check rates and availability here

Pssst! Full disclosure: We’ll make a teeny commission, at no extra cost to you, if you book a hotel on through our site. Thank you!

More fascinating UNESCO sites

Curious about some other “old city” UNESCO World Heritage Sites we’ve written about around the world? Dive into these stories…

Mexico | Check out these 7 authentic things to do in Morelia.

Croatia | Explore Diocletian’s Palace: It’s a walled wonder!

Jordan | Gaze up in awe at the monuments in the ancient rose-red city of Petra.

Portugal | Is Porto worth visiting? (How can you avoid the crowds?)

Puerto Rico | From exploring old forts to enjoying colorful umbrella art, there are many great things to do in Old San Juan.

Photo credits: © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase.

Are you planning a Morocco trip? Will you visit Tetouan?

About the authors

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George Mucalov are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents. See About.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!

Morocco Tours

Monday 2nd of July 2018

Thanks for sharing the beauty and the authenticity of Morocco

Janice and George

Monday 2nd of July 2018

We loved our too-short visit! Now we'd like to visit Chefchaouen and Fez...


Wednesday 6th of June 2018

I really like this post Janice / George!

I've been to Egypt many times, and Tunisia. I haven't yet been to Morocco, but certainly want to! I like the pots of paints! They actually remind me of these pots of sauces that you see in the night market in Taiwan. Even then, I thought it was paint.

It wasn't! :D

Janice and George

Wednesday 6th of June 2018

LOL! You wouldn't want to be eating paint :-). Egypt is a seriously fascinating country -- Luxor especially, with all those fabulous temples and underground tombs...


Tuesday 29th of May 2018

Awesome photos. Thanks for these impressions of a colorful place in Morocco. I like the alley where the houses are painted in violet. Is the color an indicator for not to get lost, or just decoration?


Tuesday 5th of June 2018

Morocco is definitely very high on the must see places to visit, and I am now even more inspired to go there after reading this post! Wow, very colorful photos, and I must ask Janice: did you happen to get one of those amazing sombrero hats on your 2 day visit? I sure would love one of those:)

Janice and George

Tuesday 29th of May 2018

Interesting point about the color... While white is the predominant color, some of the walls are partly painted in green, violet (as you noticed), pink, yellow and blue -- probably just for decoration? But the Jewish quarter is more colorfully painted than the rest of the medina. (While there was a very strong Jewish influence in the past, there are apparently only a dozen or so Jews still living there now.)