"Overlooking the straits of Gibraltar, the historic city of Tangier is one not to be missed..."
A historic trading port guarding the gateway between Europe and Africa, Tangiers has always been a glorious melting pot that blends a host of different cultures. It has traditionally been governed by other powers, giving it a slightly sultry and free-spirited feel compared to the rest of the country. This reached its height during the 1960s when it became a literary hotbed for the American Beat poets. This along with the hint of a more traditional and untouched city, thanks to its impressive Medina and Kasbah, makes it the ideal blend of the old and the new and a great place to have a city break.
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A vital Moroccan port situated on the Strait of Gibraltar, it has always been the strategic gateway between Africa and Europe, meaning that it has had many rulers over the course of its history. Its whitewashed Medina has an equally complicated history, due to its status as an ‘International Zone’ during the early 20th century, when a host of different powers ruled it together. Today it has a population of just under 1 million and is fast regaining its status as one of Morocco’s premier destinations, after a period of neglect in the 20th century.
As a coastal Mediterranean climate, it gives it warm summers and mild winters. The hottest months of the year are July and August when the temperatures average around 25-degrees and there is a cooling sea breeze, making it ideal for relaxing on the iconic beach. The weather remains fairly dry and hot between April and October, ensuring that visitors can make the most out of the city. It averages around 13 degrees in January, its coldest month, which is perfectly reasonable and makes Tangiers a pleasant place for a city break during the winter.
Its strategic location as one of the gateways to the Mediterranean, means that it has a complicated and fascinating history. It was a Phoenician trading base, named after ‘Tinge’ the lover of Heracles who supposedly tore Europe from Africa to create the Strait of Gibraltar. It was then a vital part of the Roman Empire, before passing to the Vandals, Byzantines and then Arabs. It then fell into Portuguese hands who dominated for 200 years, before giving it as a wedding gift to Charles II of Britain in the 17th century. The Moroccans took back control in 1679 and it remained in their hands until the middle of the 19th century. It was divided between France, Spain, Britain, Portugal, Sweden, Holland, Belgium, Italy and the USA and turned into an International Zone, during a squabble over who should rule the vital port in 1912, making it a bustling and vibrant city that was freer than the vast majority of Morocco. This state of affairs persisted until 1956, when it was returned upon Moroccan independence and fell into disrepair, due to the King’s hatred of it.
With a good range of children’s activities, it ensures that the younger members of the family have a memorable time in the city for their family holiday. All kids are bound to enjoy a camel ride from one of the many sellers offering them on the beach and outside of the city. While there are also long expanses of golden beach for children to play and on and the historic Cap Spartel that juts out into the ocean and can be picked out on a world map, making for an educational day out.
The enchanting city oozes history and the first point of call for any visitor, should be the rambling Medina, which tumbles down towards the ocean and plays a vital role in American literary history. The same is true of the Kasbah on the northern tip of the Medina, which was built in the 17th century and hosts the famous Café Detroit, which was a haunt of the Beat poets. The iconic Cap Spartel that juts out the North West of Africa is another must see that is located within 20 kilometres of the city. While the iconic beach is simply too good to miss, even if the waters are a bit dirty for swimming in.
The city has a bustling nightlife that all visitors are bound to enjoy. Most of the entertainment is found in the area between the Medina and the harbour, where there are a series of pubs and clubs in a concentrated area. This makes it ideal for people who want to go out and have fun, although it is still wise for female travellers to take precautions.
The best shopping in Tangiers is found in the city’s old Medina, where visitors will find a plethora of local shops selling traditional Moroccan goods. Its time as an international melting pot tends to mean that it is not quite as packed with souks and markets as some of Morocco’s other large cities, instead having a more western shopping tradition, where prices are displayed. The principle goods on offer are colourful ceramics, handmade jewellery, carved figurines and leatherwork, although you can pretty much find anything in this vibrant city.