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LARACHE is a relaxed, easy-going town, its summer visitors primarily Moroccan tourists who come to enjoy the beaches to the north of the estuary of the River Loukos. You’ll see as many women around as men – a reassuring feeling for women travellers looking for a low-key spot to bathe. Nearby, and accessible, are the ruins of ancient Lixus, legendary site of the Gardens of the Hesperides.

Larache was the main port of the northern Spanish zone and still bears much of its former stamp. There are faded old Spanish hotels, Spanish-run restaurants and Spanish bars, even an active Spanish cathedral for the small colony who still work at the docks. In its heyday it was quite a metropolis, publishing its own Spanish newspaper and journal, and drawing a cosmopolitan population that included the French writer Jean Genet, who spent the last decade of his life here and is buried in the old Spanish cemetery found to the southwest of town.

Before its colonization in 1911, Larache was a small trading port. Its activities limited by dangerous offshore sand bars, the port-town eked out a living by building pirate ships made of wood from the nearby Forest of Mamora for the “Barbary Corsairs” of Salé and Rabat.

Downtown Larache remains delightfully compact and relaxed, largely bereft of any hustle or hassle, despite the ongoing construction of a golf and marina resort to the north of the estuary. A true hybrid of its Andalusian-Arabic heritage, this is a town where paella is served alongside tajine, and where the evening paseo (promenade) is interrupted by the call to prayer.

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