Square in Tangier in northern Morocco One of the essential stages in a trip through the north of Morocco is, undoubtedly, Tangier , a city that until now had not had occasion to know, and which I have just visited. But what will you see in Tangier ? The city ​​of Tangier highlights its eminent and historic international character that takes it away from the exoticism of other Moroccan cities. Did you know that during the time of the French and Spanish protectorate in the area that is now Morocco, between 1912 and 1956, Tangier was an international city that depended on up to several countries?

Plaza 9 de Abril en Tánger al norte de Marruecos

Large Souk next to the Medina of Tangier

Tangier, international city

The inhabitants of the Spanish protectorate , who had their most important enclave in Tetouan , and those of the French protectorate, with Fez as capital, to enter Tangier needed a passport. In fact, the so-called international zone of Tangier was established between 1923 and 1960, because it was not until this last year when Morocco, after the declaration of independence in 1956, acquired the effective sovereignty of that country.  Medina of Tangier in northern Morocco The protectorate of Tangier was exercised by several countries, France and Spain, which at that time had divided under their sovereignty the current territory of Morocco, but also the United States, Great Britain, Italy, Portugal, Belgium and Holland. That international interest in Tangier has its origins many centuries ago in history, which is understood as its strategic location in the northernmost point of the African continent, and as one of the entrance doors to the Mediterranean Sea.

Medina de Tánger al norte de Marruecos

History of Tangier

The Phoenicians came to this area and the enclave was baptized as Tingis , the original name of Tangier .  Variety of olives in a market of Tangier According to the legend, Tingis was the name of a goddess lover of Hercules , who separated Europe from Africa by opening the Strait of Gibraltar . Also the Romans passed, of whose presence there are still some archaeological remains. There the vandals arrived from Europe, until the year 705 were the Arabs who occupied Tangier on their way to Spain. Antigua fortificación portuguesa junto al puerto de Tánger

Old Portuguese fortification next to the port of Tangier Later it was the Portuguese who took the city 1471, once again, for its strategic interest, for two centuries after giving it to the British. At the end of the seventeenth century a Moroccan sultan took control of Tangier , until at the beginning of the 20th century it was again the object of foreigners’ interest with the arrival of the protectorate and the aforementioned declaration of an international zone. That was a time of great strength for Tangier , a city that attracted a wide variety of people, from artists that fostered a cultural boom, to exiles, spies and marginal people.

Museo de la Kasba de Tánger

 Museum of the Kasbah of Tangier After the independence of Morocco, Tangier experienced years of great decline and, from the tourist point of view, it became an unpleasant place for visitors. It was precisely this situation that, years ago, based on the bad experiences of friends who visited Tangier , I decided to take a trip to the north of Morocco from my priorities. However, with the new reign of Mohamed VI , Tangier has become an important point in the monarch’s intention to give a push to modernize the country. 

Decoration in a corner of the museum of the Kasbah of Tangier Crime was persecuted and Tangier has opened up to the world facilitating the implantation of large multinational companies, turning this area into an important center of industrial production. This character has been favored by the construction of Tangier Med , a large and modern freight and passenger port located 40 kilometers north of the city, in the Strait of Gibraltar , and very close to Ceuta , and whose first phase was inaugurated in 2007

What to see in Tangier

Antiguo mapa del mundo bajo el dominio árabe en el museo de la Kasba

In this way, when you arrive in Tangier now , you will find a city with many faces.  Ancient map of the world under the Arab domain in the Kasba museum On the one hand, a great city, at present, the sixth of Morocco for its population, in clear expansion, and surrounded by large industrial zones with international companies, many of them Spanish. In your tour of Tangier you will go to the historic area, on the banks of the old port, where you will find two clearly delimited areas, the medina with its kasba , and the so-called new city . To see the latter, if you go by car, you must take the main avenue, Boulevard Pasteur , and then you will find the old French quarter, the new Spanish neighborhood, where institutions such as the Cervantes Institute , international public schools, Severo Ochoa , or the Spanish Consulate , in one of the largest and most luxurious venues in the city.

Rincón de la kasba de Tánger

Corner of the Kasbah of Tangier As you move along that avenue, you will go to the British and North American zones, where you will find great mansions, some of them now occupied by tycoons from Arab Gulf countries , such as the Saudi Oil Minister , who has an impressive palace in Tangier . But your visit to Tangier should focus on the ancient Kasbah and the medina .

Kasba of Tangier

The Kasbah of Tangier , an old walled enclosure in one of the hills of the city, is now a network of alleys, some of whose buildings harbor small charming hotels and riads of European owners.  One of the entrance arches to the Medina of Tangier From a hole in the wall you have a good viewpoint of the old port of Tangier , where you can see stretches of the old Portuguese fortification. Now the port, where ferries arrive from Tarifa, is also in a process of complete remodeling, so that in two or three years it will have modern facilities for fishing boats, large cruises and small leisure boats. In the Kasbah of Tangier it is worth entering the Kasba museum, the former palace of a Sultan, and also the residence of the Portuguese and British governors.

Mosque in the plaza 9 de Abril de Tangier

 Mosque in the plaza 9 de Abril de Tangier In addition to seeing the building, in this museum you will find various objects from the history of Tangier and Morocco , highlighting a large mosaic floor of the ancient Roman city of Volubilis , and a large and very curious wall map of the Arab occupation in the world.

Medina of Tangier

To visit the medina of Tangier , you must go to the square on April 9 , the center of that area of ​​the city and where the main entrance to said medina is located. Altar mayor de la iglesia anglicana de St Andrews en Tánger

High altar of the Anglican church of St Andrews in Tangier Nearby is the curious Anglican church of St Andrews , where a building of Muslim architecture is combined with Christian iconography and even some element of the Hebrew religion. Next to it is the Grand Hotel Villa de France , recently reopened, where in his time the French painter Delacroix and later, Matisse , the famous French impressionist who visited Tangier twice, and as a result several of his most famous works. In your walk through the medina you will go through streets of certain amplitude and you will cross the traditional souks where the stalls of clothes and souvenirs abound, which shows you that Tangier is a quite tourist city. Rincón de la medina de Tánger

Corner of the Medina of Tangier Of course, in the medina of Tangier do not expect to find the exoticism of other medinas in Morocco , such as Marrakech , or the authenticity of Tetouan . In the medina you will also see the old Italian neighborhood , with buildings and corners that in a way can remind you of Naples . Edificios del antiguo barrio italiano de Tánger

Buildings of the old Italian neighborhood of Tangier If to complete your visit you head towards the huge beach of Tangier , five kilometers long, now you will find an area completely under construction, where the extension of its promenade is being built. This area of ​​the city is expanding with the construction of large and modern hotels of the most famous chains in the world. And it is also an area where, because it is frequented by tourists and foreign visitors, it will be easy for you to see patrols of armed soldiers in their work of protection against possible terrorist attacks.  Construction of modern buildings and hotels on the beach of Tangier Undoubtedly, in three or four years Tangier will show a very European face, complemented also by the construction of a TGV high-speed train line by the French, which will link the city with Casablanca .

Surroundings of Tangier

Patrullas armadas de protección ante el terrorismo en Tánger

To complete your visit, if you have time and your own vehicle, it is worthwhile that in the surroundings of Tangier you go to Cabo Espartel , about 14 kilometers west of the city, where on a pleasant terrace you can sit and enjoy the views of the Spanish coast next to the Cape lighthouse.  Armed patrols of protection against terrorism in Tangier And close you can go to see the Hercules Grottos (now closed by arrangement of your access) and have a tea (at a “European” price) on the terrace of the very luxurious and exclusive hotel Le Mirage , overlooking the stunning beach that is extends to the west. Finally, my advice would be that in your visit to Tangier you will be accompanied by a guide, just as I did during my recent visit. Faro del Cabo Espartel en los alrededores de Tánger

Faro del Cabo Espartel in the surroundings of Tangier The guide will allow you to have a general view of the city, both the medina and the Kasbah, as well as the new city, and you will be able to see interesting places that you will hardly reach on your own, such as the famous Café Hafa , with its tables in terraces of several levels, a great viewpoint towards Spain, ideal place to have a tea.  Terraces of the historic Café Hafa in Tangier I read that the American writer Paul Bowles along with the Rolling Stones used to frequent the Hafa Café to smoke hashish. On the phone (from Spain) 00-212-661-931144 you can contact Aldelkader R’Hili , a veteran and expert warranty guide (you know it is not worth anyone …) who in perfect Spanish has already shown me both Tangier and Tetouan .  

Vistas de la playa desde el hotel Le Mirage cerca de Tánger

Views of the beach from the hotel Le Mirage near Tangier