Coming from the Rif, AL HOCEIMA can be a bit of a shock. It may not be quite the “exclusive international resort” the tourist board claims, but it is truly Mediterranean and has developed enough to have little in common with the farming hamlets and tribal markets of the surrounding mountains. Relaxed and friendly throughout the year, Al Hoceima is at its best in late spring or September, when the beaches are quiet and not so crowded under the midsummer weight of Moroccan families and French and German tourists.

Al Hoceima was developed by the Spanish after their counteroffensive in the Rif in 1925, and was known by them as Villa Sanjuro. The name commemorated the Spanish general José Sanjuro, who landed in the bay, under the cover of Spanish and French warships, with an expeditionary force. Coincidentally, it was at Al Hoceima, too, that then Crown Prince Hassan led Moroccan forces to quell the Riffians’ revolt in 1958, following independence.

Al Hoceima’s compact size is one of its charms. Until the 1950s, it consisted of just a small fishing port to the north of the bay, and a fringe of white houses atop the barren cliffs to the south. At the heart of this older quarter is the atmospheric Place du Rif, enclosed by café-restaurants and pensions.

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