Al Hoceima

Surrounded on three sides by the foothills of the Rif Mountains and rimmed on the fourth by turquoise Mediterranean waters, Al Hoceima is a dominating town atop rolling hills. The town perches directly over a stunning turquoise bay and, while it isn't nearly as developed as Tangier and Tetouan, 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 proudly Berber, and Berber flags and signs are becoming more and more prominent. The king has even 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 Valley, sometimes exclusively of any other language, though there are many Spanish words interspersed with Tarifit.

The finest Spanish edifice in the town is the beautifully tiled Spanish College (Instituto Español Melchor de Jovellanos de Alhucemas) 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 clifftop 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.

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