Surrounded on three sides by the Rif Mountains' foothills and rimmed on the fourth by turquoise Mediterranean waters, Al Hoceima is striking. From its perch in rolling hills, the town looks directly down on a stunning bay. It isn't nearly as developed as Tangier and Tetouan, but its natural sights and exquisite coastline make it the perfect place to relax for a day or two.
Established by the Spanish in 1925 as Villa Sanjuro, Al Hoceima was built as a stronghold against Rifi Berber rebellions. Al Hoceima is now a proudly Berber place, and Berber flags and signs are becoming more and more prominent. The king recognized Tamazight—a general term that encompasses six different Berber dialects, four of which are in use by Morocco's Berber population—as Morocco's second official language, alongside Arabic. Tarifit, Rifi Berber, is spoken by about 4 million people in the Rif, sometimes exclusively of any other language, though there are many Spanish words in the dialect.
Al Hoceima's Spanish architecture and atmosphere remain visible. The finest Spanish edifice is the beautifully tiled Collège Espagnol (Spanish College) at the end of Boulevard Mohammed V. The Old Town is centered on the pretty, Art Deco Place du Rif. There are few sights here, but you can wander the town's markets, kick back at a café, and just enjoy the relative quietude. In the Ville Nouvelle, the cliff-top Place Mohammed VI, just above the main beach, is the focal point of the evening paseo (promenade) and has a fun sidewalk punctuated by fountains. Festivals and citywide events are held here in the summer months, when many expatriate Al Hoceimans residing in Europe return home on vacation.