Tangier, Tanger, Tanja (طنجة), whatever you call it, is a city full of intrigue and secret histories, or at least that’s what I’ve been told. Yet, despite our investigation and openness to experience, it was much like every other large city.
To be fair, the mystique was surely exaggerated in the first place. As a literature and history buff, it’s easy for me to fall sway to the moods created by good authors, especially the “lost generation” that loose group of wandering ex-patriots. My imagination runs wild with imaginings about Phoenician encampments and Roman fortresses. Knowing that William S. Burroughs, Paul Bowles, and others have frequented Tangier over the years made me want to fall in love with it. I wanted a taste of that bacchanalia, the excess, not necessarily as a participant, but at least as an observer.
My expectations were, perhaps, unrealistic. Most of the modern excesses surround an obnoxious party beach culture that does not easily lend itself to literary endeavor. Or, maybe I’m just a grumpy old man.
It’s like trying to recreate the lost generation in Paris 1920s. No matter how many times I might go to Paris, I would not see what Hemingway or Fitzgerald would have seen. I realized, not only is it gone, it never really existed in the first place. These were the subjective experiences of other people in a different time.
That being said, there were some lovely things to see. The Kasbah, the large fortress on the bluff near the port, was ostensibly closed for renovation. But, as with so many things in Morocco, a kind word and feeble attempts a speaking the local language bridges gaps and wonderful things happen.
The construction men, proud of their work, bought me in the “closed” kasbah, showed me around, and shared with me some tea. One even insisted photograph him (see below). Still, some parts were inaccessible, but the whole, according to the men, will open in a few months.
Also in Tangier is the original American Embassy, the American Legation:
The United States dedicated its first consulate in Tangier during the George Washington administration. In 1821, the Legation Building in Tangier became the first piece of property acquired abroad by the U.S. government—a gift to the U.S. from Sultan Moulay Suliman.
It is a fantastic piece of history that still holds the charm, and decor, of a bygone age (see photos below).
Finally, we stayed in a lovely riad, a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard, called Dar Jameel located very near the famous Hotel Continental, one of the oldest hotels in the city. We highly recommend it for location, price, beauty, and the best riad breakfast we’ve had in Morocco.
Below are some photos of our trip.