Over the past few years, people have often asked me what sort of books they should read about Morocco. That’s a tough question as there are quite a few really great books about this little kingdom nestled on the northwest corner of Africa. Still, I have my favorites. What follows has been born from an email exchange with a JBT client (and fellow University of Washington alum!). It is a list of what I believe to be the Best Books about Morocco. These are my favorite by Moroccans and non-Moroccans alike. Any one of these will help you to pull back the curtain, dive straight into the souks, into the mountains and desert, and understand even more about Morocco before your plane touches down. (more…)
The Kingdom of Morocco is a diverse country with an easily recognizable and rich culture. However, when you look closely, Morocco is also a melting pot of foreign influences. The geographic position of Morocco and its history have resulted in a complex web of cultural contributions. Moroccans are extremely proud of this fact and thus view their country as open and welcoming. Apart from the recent and obvious French influence, Morocco has a strong connection to Spain. (more…)
When you’re traveling through the north of Morocco, undoubtably, you will see colorful Moroccan reed hats dotting the landscape. These are the “sheshia” (also: chichia) hats traditionally worn by the men, women and children of the north. (more…)
From the crumbling splendor of the 13th-century Alhambra in Granada, Spain, to the 14th-century Madrasa Bou Inania in Fez, Morocco, spectacular examples of Moorish plaster-carving, tilework, and intricately carved painted wood have blown the minds of millions of visitors over the centuries. Today, many of the same skills used to decorate those architectural gems can still be found all over Morocco in dusty craftsmen’s shops, often sprinkled throughout the old medinas of Morocco, where artisans use traditional tools and methods to create gorgeous, geometrically intricate works that are both functional and artistic. Often these skills are passed down from parent to child, but in Tetouan children have a unique opportunity to learn from true masters. (more…)
The old Medina of Tetouan is a place where people live and work — you won’t find many souvenir shops here. But if you want to experience life in a Moroccan medina with few tourists where you can explore without being bombarded by “come have a look!” then Tetouan is well worth a visit, either as a long day trip or an overnight. With just 24 hours you can get a good sense of Tetouan’s flavor. (more…)
If you are heading to Tangier anytime soon, do yourself a huge favor and pick up Tangier: A Literary Guide for Travellers . Sometimes fantastic, often incredible, other times unbelievable – this deftly researched love-letter to one of the world’s most storied cities unearths the stories of the writers and artists who have called Tangier home or passed through here on adventures of their own. These stories are deftly woven together, creating a fabric of a place, one that you can carry with you on your travels. (more…)
At first glance, one might mistake the misty, rolling hills outside of Asilah for the rugged highlands of Scotland. On a rainy, blustery winter’s day — where the only thing standing in your way is perhaps a massive muddy puddle or an enormous bull that looks a bit like a shaggy Shetland cattle — it’s easy to see why you might confuse the two beautiful landscapes. It’s even easier to see why you might confuse them when Karim Ben Ali, a Scottish-Moroccan, begins talking to you with his soft Scottish lilt. (more…)
On our first afternoon in the Tangier medina, a soft-spoken old man invited my wife and me to step inside his carpet shop to “have a look.” When we showed interest in a small piece, he suddenly vanished, replaced by The Closer – the rabidly aggressive owner of the store. After being cajoled, pressured, and begged for far too long, we finally stumbled out, exhausted. Undeterred, we continued our walk, dodging one shopkeeper after another, each shouting: “English? Espanol? Just have a look!” This was going to be one long week in Tangier! (more…)
Travel should excite all the senses. That’s the lesson my thirteen-year-old self took back to England from my first family holiday abroad in Tangier, Morocco.
A port town in the north of Morocco, the once international zone of Tangier is separated from Europe by twenty miles of the Strait of Gibraltar. Its location explains the cosmopolitan feel that Tangier had to my teenage self. The ambience permeated my skin, coated me whilst I walked with my parents, younger brother and our local guide, through the medina.
Visitors are drawn to Tangier because of its literary and artistic past coupled with its mysterious reputation as an international haven for spies. Tangier became a mecca for French painters in the nineteenth century, but the most famous artist associated with Tangier is the American writer Paul Bowles, whose first novel, The Sheltering Sky, was turned into a film by Bernardo Bertolucci. However, Beat writer William Burroughs also lived in Tangier during the 1950s and penned his most famous work, Naked Lunch, in the Hotel el-Muniria. Tennessee Williams, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Brion Gysin and the Rolling Stones also called Tangier home for short spells.
After a stroll through the Grand Socco, the plaza that serves as the gateway to Tangier´s medina, you can start your homage to your favorite artists at the Gran Café de Paris in the old medina’s busy central square, the Petit Socco. Bowles, Burroughs and their Beat friends gathered here to discuss life and literature while mingling among double agents and expats during the notorious time of international rule. Here, Tennessee Williams met one of Morocco’s most famous writers, Mohamed Choukri, author of a memoir titled Tennessee Williams in Tangier. The café provides an ideal place to observe the chaotic rhythms of the Petit Socco, where you can find people from all walks of life, rich and poor, foreign and local, merchants and businessmen.
The short ferry ride from Europe to Tangier has made this port city a popular entry point to the country and a convenient base for exploring northern Morocco. During a day trip from Tangier you can drive along the Mediterranean coast or the Atlantic coast.
Located about an hour’s drive from Tangier via CTM bus or grand taxi, Tétouan is an excellent place to learn more about Morocco’s colonial history. Having served as capital of the Spanish Protectorate from 1912 to 1956, the city’s architecture features a blend of Moroccan and Andalusian influences. Its medina has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site for its unique display of craftsmanship, and it is regarded as one of the best-maintained historical sites in Morocco. After strolling around the three-mile long walls of the old city, you can head to the National Institute of Fine Arts or dine in a Spanish-era cafe. (more…)
With ancient Berber, Phoenician and Carthaginian roots dating back to the fifth century B.C.E., Tangier is one of Morocco’s largest northern cities. Situated on the North African coast adjacent to the Strait of Gibraltar where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, it is a multi-cultural hub where Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities co-mingle. The city is also the capital of the Tangier-Tétouan region and of the Tangier-Assilah Prefecture.
During the first half of the twentieth century the city was a popular Mediterranean resort destination. It has been the home to an eclectic mix of expatriates, exiles and refugees and was visited by Tennessee Williams, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and other literary figures. It was also frequented by artists like Delacroix and Matisse. In addition to being a romantic destination for artistic types, Tangier is a city haunted by a decadent past where drugs and prostitution figured prominently in its background.
The city is currently undergoing urban development and modernization so that it is more appealing to jet-setting tourists from around the world. This means you can experience a mix of ancient sites and modern amenities. (more…)
Why would you want to start your Moroccan adventure in Tangier (sometimes referred to as Tangiers)? You have probably heard the rumors that Tangier is not safe for travelers and prices are high. Once the city, boasted a population of Americans and Europeans that partied hard. However, all that has changed in the last few decades. The Moroccan government has scoured Tangier Morocco. Savvy travelers of today have no trouble enjoying the Moroccan treasures found here. (more…)
When it comes to most visited tourists’ cities in Morocco, Tangier may not be the most likely of candidates. In the past, it has been known to have major issues with guides who aren’t very pleasant to visitors–haranguing them for personal tours and such, for instance. The Moroccan tourist authorities have begun to really crack down on this, however. For the experienced traveler, though, you can be sure that a trip to Tangier will now offer up some of the country’s best highlights. (more…)
Morocco has always held some mystery for travelers. This part of North Africa bridges mainland Europe and the African continent, though separated slightly by the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean. With the Atlantic Coast thousands of miles long and the Sahara thousands of miles across, Morocco has many different prospects of topography and offers a complete and unique experience for each individual traveler. (more…)
Tangier, as it is called today, has been under Roman rule, in first Century BCE. Along came the Vandals, who started their move across Africa from here. Between the fourth and fifth centuries, Tangier was part of the Byzantine Emipire. The Arabs arrived in the early 700s. Portuguese laid claim to the area in late 1400s. Spain and Portugal held Tangier together for about 60 years, becoming Portuguese again in the mid 1600s. Catherine of Braganza (Portugal) was to marry Charles II of England. Tangier was given to Charles as part of the Princess’ dowry. You can read more about this northern port city on our Tangier guide written by our local expert writer.
The British ruled the city until Sultan Moulay Ismail imposed a blockade which forced the British to withdraw. Upon leaving, the British destroyed the city and its port. Although partially reconstructed, the city declined to around 5000 people in early 1800s. Because of its geographic location, many European countries have vied for control.
France was the most influential when the Kaiser of Germany said he was in favor of Morocco remaining a free country. This nearly triggered a war between France and Germany. Morocco was divided between France and Spain. Tangier. In the 1920s, Tangier became a international zone, held by France, Spain, Britain and Italy until World War II. Spain held control of Tangier until Morocco gained its independence. She was reunited with the rest of the country.
Tangier has a checkered past. Once known as a safe haven for international spies and a meeting place for secret agents. Tangier is used as the location for many spy novels and movies. It, also, had quite a reputation as a smuggling center. Tangier attracted many artists such as Matisse and Tiffany. Authors like Choukri, native to the area, and Burroughs wrote about the city and surrounding area.
Today, Tangier is the second industrial center in Morocco with its Tangier Free Zone. Construction should be completed by the end of 2008 on the second Tangier-Mediterranean port. Fishing and agriculture are two smaller industries adding to her economy. Tangier is connected to the rest of Morocco by rail and new expressways. Ibn Batouta International Airport is 15 kilometers from the city’s center. Even with all the modern industries, Tangier still has an old medina were artists ply their wares. Leather goods are the specialty along with traditional clothing, shoes, silver crafts and wood items. The entrance gate to the Medina is found near the Great Mosque and it connects with the beaches.
Tourism is becoming an important industry with foreign investors building seaside resorts. <b>Cape Spartel</b>, the entrance to the Straits of Gilbralter, is nearby. Visitors go there to see the famous lighthouse as well as the coast of Europe from the African side.
Tangier is a fast growing city population wise. In the last twenty years, population of the city has quadrupled.