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 has recently undergone a giant urban development and modernization facelift. It is now one of the most appealing cities in the world for jet-setting tourists. This means you can experience a mix of ancient sites and modern amenities.
For travelers, this populous city has much to offer in the way of historic attractions. To hit the highlights, consider taking a tour of the Kasbah mosque and exploring the Grand Socco and Petit Socco in the area of the Medina. Like many other Moroccan cities, Tangier has several souks, and you may want to bargain prices with the many merchants in the city for spices, carpets and other trinkets.
Visitors who prefer to get a glimpse of Tangier’s local history and Moroccan history in general—but who don’t want to get dusty amidst the ruins—may wander the halls of the Museum of Moroccan Art. Some may find the strange lead inhabitants of the Forbes Museum a fascinating stop on their tour of the city. Others may seek out a glimpse of the Dar el Mahkzen, the former sultan’s palace which houses an impressive collection of art and priceless Moroccan antiquities.
The city has plenty of fantastic restaurants as well, and some brash foreign visitors to Tangier might choose to lounge in the waters of a hammam, the local version of the more recognizable “Turkish bath.”
If you have more than one day in the city, you may decide to take a day trip to Asilah, a small fishing village known for its beautiful beaches. If you travel to the nearby village of Kalaa you can venture into the Rif Mountains, which offer hiking routes for adventurous travelers.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for a bit more armchair adventure, check out these seven great books by Moroccan writers!
Written by Shaun Kilgore.
Photo by mhobl.