Manning the Strait of Gibraltar on the Maghreb coast, Tangier has been a prosperous trading port for centuries. Its potent combination of exotic beauty, one-time status as an ‘international zone’ and crossbreed history had lent it a mysterious air of adventure and romance for ages. With its Mediterranean connections dating as far back as the Phoenician era, over time, Tangier has inspired artists and writers around the world, right from Mark Twain, Delacroix and Tennessee Williams to Paul Bowles and Henri Matisse.

Today, travelers continue to flock to its shores, drawn by its rich heritage and cosmopolitan air. The old hillside medina, the view over the strait, the sultan’s palace (now converted into a museum), and the American Legation Museum are just some of the delightful sights that the city offers.

TANGIER

The history of Tangier is inextricably linked to its strategic location on the Strait of Gibraltar. The Phoenicians established a port here in the 8th century, and it was later settled by the Carthaginians. In 146 BC, Tangier, known as Tingis, became a Roman town and the capital of Mauretania, to which it gave the name Tingitana. In 711, Arab and Berber forces gathered here to conquer Spain. 

By the 14th century, the town was trading with Marseille, Genoa, Venice and Barcelona. In the 19th century, Morocco was the object of dispute between European nations. When Kaiser Wilhelm Il denounced the entente cordiale between France and Britain in 1905, the stage was set for Tangier’s transformation into an international city. 

This was sealed by the Treaty of Algeciras (1906), after which the diplomatic corps in Tangier took over Morocco’s political, financial and fiscal affairs. When colonial rule was established in 1912, Spain took control of the northern part of the country. 

Tangier, however, remained under international administration until 1956, when it was returned to the now-independent Kingdom of Morocco. Its time as an international zone was very much the city’s heyday; during this time its image as a romantic and sensuously exotic place was reflected in literature and on the big screen.