Explore Cap Spartel and Ancient Cotta
The beautiful Bay of Tangier has the cape of Malabata to the east and the cape of Spartel to the west, both of which are worth visiting on a day trip from the city of Tangier. Traveling to the west, visitors will come across the fascinating Caves of Hercules with its unique stone-framed window in the shape of Africa, as well as the beautiful gardens of La Montagne. With abundant cork and pine forests covering the hill, this was the base for rebels fighting against British and Portuguese occupations of Tangier in the past. There are two royal palaces on La Montagne (the mountain), one of which was built by Sir John Hay, the Victorian British Consul.
The lighthouse at Cap Spartel, referred to as the Cape of the Vines by the ancient Greeks and Romans, was built by Sultan Mohammed III in 1864. The King then persuaded the authorities of Britain, France, Italy and Spain to pay for the upkeep of the building, which they did until Morocco gained its independence in 1956. Known locally as Robinson Plage, the vast Atlantic Beach begins south of Cap Spartel. The Caves of Hercules (Grottes d’Hercule) form part of the rocky area around five kilometers from the lighthouse, after which the sandy shoreline stretches as far as the eye can see. Turning inland from the caves, a track leads to the ruins of Ancient Cotta, a small Roman settlement founded in the second century and believed to have been occupied for around two hundred years before being abandoned.
The remains of a factory building, along with the remains of a temple and baths complex, have been unearthed at Ancient Cotta, and researchers believe that the inhabitants of the settlement made a living by producing a type of fish sauce known as garum, as was the case with the town of Lixus – one of Morocco’s oldest continuously inhabited sites. Ruins of Roman olive farms for the production of olive oil have been found in this fertile region of Morocco, and there is evidence that the area was inhabited long before the Romans arrived. Today, the modern factory serving the Maghreb-Europe Gazodue pipeline is located near the site of Ancient Cotta. The pipeline carries natural gas from Algeria, through Morocco, and under the Straits of Gibraltar to Spain and beyond.