Visiting Tangier, Morocco and 5 Can’t-Miss Sites

Tangier is one of Morocco’s major cities, sitting on its Atlantic coast in the western opening to Mediterranean Sea. At only 20 miles (32 km) from Spain, Tangier is the closest major city of Morocco to continental Europe. Covering an area of 144 square miles in between the Rif Mountains and the sea, it is the second large seaport in Morocco. Its interesting history, as well as the historical and cultural places of interest, makes it an appealing holiday destination.

General History

What Everybody Ought to Know about Tangier, Morocco

Phoenician sailors and Berber villagers founded the seaport of Tangier in 5th century BC.. 400 years later, the mighty Roman Empire gained control over the city and maintained it until the Vandal invasion of the 5th century AD. During this time, Tangier became an important city for the fledgling Christian movement and was eventually established as a headquarters for local church hierarchy once the Roman Empire accepted the new religion. Throughout several centuries of conflict, Tangier remained a titular see of the Roman Catholic Church. In 12th century, two different Muslim sects, namely, Almohads and Almoravids fought to gain control over the city. After this, they launched an assault on the country of Spain.

Over the next three or four centuries, control of the kingdom kept transferring between Spain, Britain, and Portugal. The cultural and architectural history of Tangier largely reflects the influence of Arabic, European, and African civilizations under which the city was colonized at different times. As a result of the clash of civilizations, a large portion of Tangier was declared an “International Zone” under the control of European powers. This move helped to make Tangier this city it is today.

The international quality of the area made it the ideal safe-house for spies and criminals during WWII and the Cold War. The shady crowd made it quite the haven for illegal ventures, trendy fashionistas, and the arts. Famous folks such as the Rolling Stones, Tennessee Williams, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg made the city their home or stay-cation at one point or another.

The artistic and literary culture still thrives in Tangier today.

Places of Interest in Tangier

Grand Socco

Grand Socco, whose name means Big Square
Grand Socco, whose name means “Big Square”

This former marketplace has now taken the form of a city crossroads, and is situated just outside the walls of old city. The square is lined with numerous cafes as well as swarms of taxis lining up for hiring. Though it gained a lot of bad reputation for criminal activities and drug dealing, it is a good place for visitors to witness and soak themselves in the local customs and traditions. Amidst the chaotic square, Rif women dressed in colorful traditional dresses sell spices and vegetables. It is also a nice place for starting your tour of the city, before you enter into the medina.


Kasbah, Tangier, Morocco
Kasbah, Tangier, Morocco

Wander through the elegantly designed alleys and arcades of Kasbah, which served as the fortified residential quarters in the 17th century. Here you can catch a glimpse of the Media as well as Bay of Tangier. After walking through the long stretches of alleys, you can rest your feet at Moorish Café situated in Sultan’s Gardens. Here it is possible to watch the local craftsman by sitting on the terrace, or simply view the clear skies of Tarifa.

Dar el Makhzen

Dar el Makhzen palace entrance
Dar el Makhzen palace entrance

The former palace of the Sultan, the Dar el Makhzen currently houses a splendid collection of antiquities and arts. This palace, dating back to the 17th century, looms large inside the Tangier Kasbah. Its frescoed ceilings and decorative mosaics make it worth at least one visit. The art hails from numerous places throughout Morocco, and includes ancient manuscripts, carpets, silks, and pottery. The antiquities which have been displayed here have been retrieved from various places including Cotta, Volubilis, and Lixus. The museum also houses a life-size model of a Carthaginian tomb.

Forbes Museum

Located only 15 minutes from the medina, by foot, the Forbes Museum serves at the best example of Tangier’s palatial residence from Marshan villa district. The building is open for public viewing and comprises of a collection of eight thousand miniature soldiers belonging to the former owner of the palace.

The Old “International Zone”

The area formerly known as the international zone is still home to dozens of well-known writers and artists. Just cruising the streets and checking out the galleries is an experience in itself!

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