Tangiers, Morocco

Museum of Moroccan Arts
Museum of Antiquities
American Legation Museum

At the crossroads of Africa and Europe, the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, Tangier has an individual character.

It is one of the oldest cities in Morocco. The Phoenicians and Carthaginians established trading posts here. The Romans made it a capital city. It was occupied by the Arabs and invaded by Vandals and Visigoths. Before the Spanish, the Portuguese controlled the town. In the early part of the 20th century, Tangier was an international city whose tax-free status and cosmopolitan image attracted European and American artists and writers.

Although it has lost a little of its glamorous image, it is still a bustling city with an air of mystery surrounding it. For most visitors that arrive in Morocco by sea, it is their first point of contact with the country .

Tangier is very much a tourist town, serving everything from Moroccan families on 2 month holidays to Europeans on one-day African excursions. The town beach has a great setting: it makes up a several kilometer long curve with the white houses of Tangier as a frame before it ends in the barren mountains of which there is nothing further north than sea and the European continent

One of the main centers of afternoon and early evening activities in Tangier is along the beach walk. Activities here are rather common, people walk up and down this avenue size street, looking at people and allowing others to look at them.

There are several Atlantic beaches west of Tangier, which all offer a good alternative to the town beach. The setting of these beaches can be most attractive, with mountains on all sides, yet with a wide and clean beach with all necessary amenities.
The medina of Tangier is a real one: Streets are narrow, houses in many different styles, and most of this medina is in good condition. That is a proof that even people with some money both live and work here.

The medina is quite big, and there are many commercial areas. Most of these serve the tourist traffic, and it is more difficult to find any areas where real handcraft is performed.

Other areas are solely devoted to living, and there are plenty of nice houses, painted doors, decorated gates and rose bushes all around.

The gate to the medina near the Great Mosque is one of the more popular, as it connects directly to the beach walk. It is also the easiest entry to the most fascinating parts of the old parts of Tangier, and you will immediately find yourself walking in narrow streets which soon ends up in the Petit Socco.

The Petit Socco in the medina must be the 100 square meters of Tangier with the worst reputation. Right here, drug deals are made, human smuggling planned and prostitution performed.
But after sitting there in a coffee shop  for two hours, trying to spot any of these activities, I had to give up: The youths behind me had been discussing nothing but football..

A walk along the Atlantic side of Tangier is really charming. Only few houses have managed to put their feet down before the hill becomes too steep. And by some strange coincidence history has made this into the poor people's quarters.
Whenever I walk around here, I ask myself in such a European way: Do they know that they live in the best part of the town. Because, who could want more than the great view of the Atlantic and the wide and empty beach?

Morocco was the first power that recognized the United States of America as an independent country, and in response an American embassy was put up here in Tangier back in 1777.

It now serves as a museum where there is no entry fee, but every visitor has to be guided around by the friendly and knowledgeable staff. The interior is not really fantastic or impressive, but always tasteful. There are also collections of art of highly differing quality (locally stationed American artists). You will pass through several reception rooms as well as the tiny garden just one storey above the street.

Socco is the Spanish version of the Arabic word for market: suuq. But with the Spanish long gone, the word Socco survives in Tangier. The Grand Socco is located right north-east of the medina, and is no longer a market place.

Today it is a meeting place and a transportation junction, principally for taxis. The Grand Socco is also point where the modern city's street are forced to continue in the narrow streets of the old city.

The Kasbah place fronts the former sultanate palace, which now has been converted into a museum. The Kasbah was earlier this century one of the most attractive areas of Tangier, but it has lost quite a bit of its old attractions, and there is a strangely remote and empty feeling to it. The Kasbah place is dominated by its fortifications which are in very good condition

The Kasbah these days is still a nice area, quiet and in good condition. But the real wealth is behind often anonymous facades, and there are many luxurious houses here. Most of them are fairly old though, because most rich people of Tangier now puts up their houses further away from town centre.

The Dar El Makhzen was built by sultan Moulay Ismaïl, and is organized around two inner courtyards. While the palace was not of the largest a sultan could reside in, this one is still tastefully finished with wooden ceilings, arabesques and marble fountains.
The palace was abandoned in 1912, and was later turned into a museum of art and architecture. Among its exhibits you will find old examples of craftsmanship, but it is probably the finds from Volubilis which is the most interesting for most visitors.

Place de France is one of the focal points for activities in the modern parts of Tangier. Some of the busiest streets radiates from it but with all the cafés around here, it is a place where many stop to have a coffee and meet friends.

Grand Cafe de Paris is a landmark in Tangier, and the place where foreign agents, expatriates and Moroccan nationalists used to meet through all the changing periods of Tangier in this century. Even today it is one of the city's most popular places, and very different from many other fashionable cafés in Morocco you get good coffee here. Outside, cheap plastic chairs destroy the ambience, but the interior is almost unchanged with deep skin chairs.

There are plenty to watch for anyone interested in architecture, and next to indigenous examples there are many nice European style houses. Details are sometimes blurred from years of little maintenance

Tangier has many palaces, and many of them have been well taken care of. Styles and size vary, but many are of high artistic class, like this one. It used to belong to American multimillionaire Malcolm Forbes. The house is not very large, but the property is more impressive. It is open for visitors because of exhibit of Forbes' collection of military miniatures.

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Casablanca Travel and Tours is a full-service travel agency dedicated to the idea that travel can and should open doors to new life experiences.  Whether we work with private travelers or large groups, we provide the highest level of customer satisfaction and value.

Our offices are located in Washington D.C., U.S.A., and Casablanca, Morocco. Because we are English-speaking natives of Morocco, our staff becomes your personal in-depth resource for knowledge about Moroccan culture and travel concerns you might have. [Read More]

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We've posted a number of times here on Gadling about the impact of movies as a travel motivator. In other words, which movies portray a sense of place strong enough to make you want to visit?

Budget Travel recently came up with their own top ten "travel inspiring" movies released in the last year, with the Bourne Ultimatum coming in at number one thanks to six countries featured in the film and an exciting rooftop chase through the ancient medina of Tangiers (above). Although Martha blogged about this a few weeks ago,[View More]

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