Contributed by Jo Malcolm

Somerset Maughan famously described the French Riviera as ‘a sunny place for shady people’ and that just about sums up the Moroccan town of Tangier too.

Except there’s more rain in Tangier (because it’s right between the Atlantic and Mediterranean), and it’s much “shadier” than the Riviera.

It’s an excellent place to visit if you want to leave the ease of Spain, (90 minutes by ferry across the Straits of Gibraltar), and jolt your wits up a bit.

Arriving somewhere for the first time by sea intensifies the sheer exhilaration of adventure and gives you a sense of how a place must have felt to voyagers centuries before you. In fact, Tangier is the home town of the medieval explorer Ibn Battuta, who travelled the world a century before Marco Polo.

Tangier is many things to many people, and a whole plethora of ne’er-do-wells have enjoyed the town’s louche seediness for years.

It has also attracted some of the world’s most glamourous, wealthy, and talented, including Matisse, Francis Bacon, Yves St Laurent, Jean Genet, Paul Bowles, the Beat Generation (William Burrough’s iconic novel, Naked Lunch is set in Tangier), Elizabeth Taylor, Barbara Hutton, Mick Jagger, and American TV chef and travel writer Anthony Bourdain.

Tangier has an exciting history too. Like many places in the world with a strategic geographical location, it was an excellent haven for spies, drug dealers and smugglers. ( Currently people smugglers).

The beautiful and unexpected St. Andrews church is a good place to meet some of the town’s expats or international visitors, and its congregation also attracts migrants from Liberia and Mauritania who you can meet over a cup of something with the church minister after the service

There is also a little enclave of artistic foreigners in Tangier, which appeared in an article in The New York Times magazine a few years ago and which took me to Tangier in the first place.

I was lucky enough to meet one of the people in this NYT article when I was sitting in the sun drinking hot mint tea in a glass outside the Cinema Riff. On my first of many visits to Tangier, I was invited to lunch in his immaculately tasteful flat.

Add to all that; the delicious mint tea (with fresh mint leaves and sugar on the side or in the glass), couscous, Tangines, the fascinating bars and cafés for the languid flanuese/ flanuer, and you’ll get the idea of why Tangier is so alluring.

Oh, and next time you eat a tangerine, bear in mind it got its name from Tangier. The fruit was introduced to Europe and elsewhere from South East Asia via the port of Tangier. (You can find delicious squeezed-on-the-spot tangerine juice at the top corner of the Grand Socco ).


Recommended Read: Tangier: A Literary Guide by Josh Shoemake
Recommended Listening: Whatever you hear in the cafés

If you would like to know more about Tangier please contact janeco@mytravelroom.co.nz


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