Rte des Grottes d'Hercule, Tangier.
14 km west of Tangier at Cap Spartel.
All year daily 10-21.
Adults MAD 10, Children MAD 5.
Foreigners: Adults MAD 60, Children MAD 25.
|Classification:||Karst Cave Sea Cave Limestone Quarries and Mine|
|Guided tours:||self guided|
S Carleton Coon (1957):
Archaeological Explorations in the Middle East. Jonathan Cape, London. plate 2
|Address:||Grottes D’Hercule, Rte des Grottes d'Hercule, Tangier, Tel: +212-606-703374.|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|6000 BC||Neolithic habitation.|
|1920||cave opened to the public.|
|1952||declared a National Heritage site.|
|1982||electric light installed.|
|1986||the ashes of Brion Gysin, a British-Canadian painter, writer, sound poet, performance artist and inventor of experimental devices, are scattered here.|
|23-OCT-1995||Def Leppard concert in the cave.|
|20-DEC-2003||closed to the public after a rockfall caused by nearby construction work.|
|JAN-2004||reopened after a brief examination.|
|2013||closed for restauration work commissioned by King Mohammed VI of Morocco.|
|2015||reopened to the public.|
Located 14 km west of Tangier in Cap Spartel, the north-western extremity of Africa's Atlantic coast. Cap Spartel is heavily wooded, but below it the Robinson Plage stretches off to the south. The caves are located about 100 meters from the Robinson Plage Holiday Village and surrounded by some expensive cafes.
The caves has been used as a dwelling since Neolithic times. Archaeological excavations have produced human bones and flints. For a long time locals quarried stone here, then, in the first half of the 20th century they were used as brothels, until it was found that tourists were a more lucrative venture.
It is recommended that one visits the caves very early in the morning to avoid being hassled by the locals. The Caves of Hercules are Tangiers premier tourist attraction. Apart from their great beauty and archaeological interest, they are reputed to have been the dwelling place of Hercules who founded Tangier and made the Straits of Gibraltar, with one blow from his sword.
From the entrance kiosk, the guide leads the party along a concrete path, past the old quarry working to a second entrance overlooking the Atlantic ocean. This is called "The Map of Africa", as the outline of the entrance is said to resemble this feature. This entrance is impassable at high tide.
Text by Tony Oldham (2004). With kind permission.
The Grottes D’Hercule (Caves of Hercules) are located on Cape Spartel, the northeastern end of Africa in Morocco. This peninsula protrudes north towards Europe, with Ceuta and the ferries to Spain in the eastern corner, Tangier in the western corner, and the cave is located even west of Tangier on the coast facing the Atlantic Ocean. The cave has two entrances, one to the sea and one to land. It is originally a natural cave, though it is unclear if it was a sea cave or actually a karst cave which was further eroded by the sea.
The caves in this area were visited by prehistoric man, this cave as well as the neighbouring caves مغارة الخيل (Grotte des Chevaux, Horse Cave), Al Alia Cave, Al Khil Cave and Cave of Ace Sayfia. During excavations prehistoric remains from the Neolithic were discovered which are now on display at the museum of Kasba of Tangier. They include smooth, red pottery, polished rocks, cut flint and terra cotta figurines.
The Bronze Age history is the reason for the name Caves of Hercules. The 11th of the “12 Labors of Hercules” was to steal three golden apples from the Garden of the Hesperides, which were believed to confer immortality. In other words, its unclear if this story is fiction or based on real events, its unclear if Hercules ever existed. Its unknown if the garden was located in nearby Lixus, the current city of Larach, as excavation revealed no proof. According to legend Hercules used the secluded cavern as a place to hide and sleep before embarking on his risky mission.
Then with the beginning of the Iron Age the Phoenicians roamed the African coast, trading with the locals. There are numerous markings in the cave which are said to be of Phoenician origin, for example some markings on the wall in the shape of eyes, which are said to show a map of the local area. The belief that the sea entrance was created artificially by the Phoenicians is probably a result of the fact that it vaguely resembles a map of Africa, so the conclusion is that it was created artificially. This is nonsensical in several respects: the Phoenicians did not know the shape of Africa, they only knew the north coast, the entrance is natural, and finally, the resemblance is quite slight. If you are inside and have enough imagination, you might be able to see it, there is even a hole in the rock that marks Madagascar. But it is mirrored, so you would have to look at it from the outside, and there again it is not visible at all. All in all, a very half-baked story, which is why there are no photos of it, only textual descriptions. The fotos we have seen look more like the Joker from the Batman comics than Africa.
Undisputed is the fact that the cave gave the local Berber population easy access to a certain layer of limestone which was quarried for millstones. The flat and round millstones were cut out at the wall, and after they were removed there was a circular hole in the wall. Repeating the process again and again, the walls got a quite spectacular pattern, which is the upper part of the round shape in sequences, resembling roof tiles. The second entrance to the cave from land was actually created by the quarrying of the Berbers.
There is a local legend that the cave is the entrance to a 24 km long cave passage which connects Africa and Europe, the Cape Spartel with the rock of Gibraltar. That's the reason why there is a group of macaque monkeys living on the rock, they came from Africa through the cave. Another exmple of a Far Connection Legend.
The weird stories around the cave continue. So there is the story of Brion Gysin, a British-Canadian painter, writer, sound poet, performance artist and inventor of experimental devices. He lived some years in Morocco, and when he died of lung cancer in 1986 his ashes were scattered at the Caves of Hercules. We are not sure if this actually happened, we guess if it happened it was most likely illegal.
And another weird story which is true, at least there's a video of the event on youTube. In 1995 British rock group Def Leppard played a concert in the cave. The weird part is here, that they played concerts in London and Vancouver, Canada, on the same day. It was listed as the first rock group playing three concerts on three continents in one day by the Guinness Book of World Records.
The cave is open to the public for a long time. Light was installed in the 1980s, and another substantial restauration was commissioned by King Mohammed VI of Morocco in 2013. The cave was closed for two years and a new light system was installed and the floor was paved. The cave was still accessible for free, but there was a sort of side branch with an artificial waterfall or fountain and some kitschy Greek-style sculptures and other knickknacks. So there was a small fee for this part. It seems this has changed lately, the entrance fee has not changed by there is no free section anymore. And foreigners pay six times the price for locals.