Many civilisations and cultures
have influenced the history
of Tangier, starting from before the 10th century BCE. Between the period of being a strategic Berber
town and then a Phoenician
trading centre to the independence era around the 1950s, Tangier was a nexus for many cultures. In 1923, it was considered as having international status
by foreign colonial powers
and became a destination for many European and American diplomats, spies, writers and businessmen.
The city is undergoing rapid development and modernisation. Projects include tourism projects along the bay, a modern business district called Tangier City Centre, an airport terminal, and a football stadium. Tangier's economy is set to benefit greatly from the Tanger-Med
name of the city is variously recorded as tng (Punic
), tngʾ (𐤕𐤍𐤂𐤀
), tyngʾ (𐤕𐤉𐤍𐤂𐤀
and ttgʾ (𐤕𐤕𐤂𐤀
these appear in Greek and Roman sources as Tenga
The old Berber
name was Tingi
connects to Berber tingis
, meaning "marsh".
The Greekslater claimed
: Τιγγίς) had been named for Tinjis
, a daughter of the titan Atlas
, who was supposed to support the vault of heaven
nearby. Latin Tingis
then developed into Portuguese Tânger
, Spanish Tánger
, and FrenchTanger
, which entered English as Tangier
. The Arabic
and modern Berber name of the town is Ṭanja
Tangier was formally known as Colonia Julia Tingi
Colony of Tingis") following its domination by colony status
during the Roman Empire
. The nicknames "Bride of the North" and "Door of Africa" reference its position in far northwestern Africa near the Strait of Gibraltar
Surviving parts of the wall of Roman Tingis
Probably invited by Count Boniface
, who feared war with the empress dowager
tens of thousands of Vandals
crossed into North Africa in 429 and occupied Tingis
and Mauretania as far east as Calama
. When Boniface learned that he and the empress had been manipulated against each other by Aetius
, he attempted to compel the Vandals to return to Spain but was instead defeated at Calama in 431.
The Vandals lost control of Tingis and the rest of Mauretania in various Berber uprisings.
Under the Umayyads
, Tangier served as the capital of the Moroccan district (Maghreb al-Aqsa
) of the province of Africa
). The conquest of the Maghreb and Spain had, however, been undertaken principally as raids for slaves
and plunder and the caliphate's leadership continued to treat all Berbers as pagans or slaves for tax purposes
, even after their wholesale conversion to Islam.
In the area around Tangier, these hateful taxes were mostly paid in female slaves or in tender lambskins
obtained by beating the ewes to induce premature birth
. Governor Yazid
was murdered by Berber guards whom he had tattooed as slaves in c.
and in the 730s similar treatment from Governor Ubayd Allah
, his deputy at Tangier, provoked the Berber Revolt
. Inspired by the egalitarian Kharijite
and others under Maysara al-Matghari
seized Tangier in the summer of 740.
In the Battle of the Nobles
on the city's outskirts a few months later, Maysara's replacement Khalid ibn Hamid
massacred the cream of Arab nobility in North Africa. An enraged Caliph Hisham
ordered an attack from a second army "whose beginning is where they are and whose end is where I am" but this was defeated at Bagdoura
the next year.
The Barghawata were concentrated further south on the Atlantic coast, and area around Tangier fell into chaos until 785.
Arab refugee Idris
arrived at Tangier
before moving further south, marrying into local tribes around Moulay Idriss
and assembling an army that, among its other conquests
, took Tangier c.
790. During the division of the sultanate that occurred on the death of Idris II
, Tangier fell to his son Qasim
It was soon taken by Qasim's brother Umar
, who ruled it until his death in 835.
Umar's son Ali
became sultan (r. 874–883), as did Qasim's son Yahya
after him (r. 880–904), but they governed from Fez
caliph Abdullah al-Madhi
began interfering in Morocco in the early 10th century, prompting the Umayyad emir of Cordova
to proclaim himself caliph and to begin supporting proxies against his rivals. He helped the Maghrawa Berbers
in 927, Ceuta
in 931, and Tangier in 949.
Tangier's governor was subsequently named chief over Cordova's Moroccan possessions and allies. Ali ibn Hammud
, named Cordova's governor for Ceuta in 1013, took advantage of the realm's civil wars to conquer Tangier and Málaga
before overrunning Cordova itself and proclaiming himself caliph in 1016. His Barghawata ally Rizḳ Allāh was then permitted to rule from Tangier with general autonomy.
Like Ceuta, Tangier did not initially acknowledge the Marinids
after the fall of the Almohads. Instead, the local chief Yusuf ibn Muhammad
pledged himself to the Hafsids
in Tunisia and then to the Abbasids
in the east before being killed in ah 665 (late 1266 or early 1267 CE).Abu Yusuf Yaqub
compelled Tangier's allegiance with a three months' siege in 1274.
The next century was an obscure time of rebellions and difficulties for the city. During this time, the great Berber traveler Ibn Battuta
was born in Tangier in 1304, leaving home at 20 for the hajj
from Tangier and Salé
began to harass shipping in the strait
and North Atlantic
in the late 14th century.
A partial plan of the late medieval kasbah
was found in a Portuguese document now held by the Military Archives of Sweden
Leonardo de Ferrari's plan of the Portuguese
fortifications at Tangier, c. 1655.
Tangier c. 1901
Aerial view of Tangier in 1932
Iberian rule lasted until 1661,
when it was given to England
's King Charles II
as part of the dowry
of the Portuguese infanta Catherine of Braganza
A squadron under the admiral and ambassador Edward Montagu
arrived in November. English Tangier
, fully occupied in January 1662,
was praised by Charles as "a jewell of immense value in the royal diadem
despite the departing Portuguese taking away everything they could, even—according to the official report—"the very fflowers, the Windowes and the Dores".
Tangier received a garrison
and a charter which made it equal to other English towns, but the religious orders were expropriated, the Portuguese residents nearly entirely left, and the town's Jews
were driven out owing to fears concerning their loyalty.
Meanwhile, the Tangier Regiment
were almost constantly under attack by locals who considered themselves mujahideen
fighting a holy war
Their principal leader was Khadir Ghaïlan
(known to the English as "Gayland" or "Guyland") of the Banu Gurfat, whom the Earl of Peterborough
attempted to buy off.
Ultimately, the truce only lasted for part of 1663 and 1664; on May 4 of the latter year, the Earl of Teviot
and around 470 members of the garrison were killed in an ambush
beside Jew's Hill. Lord Belasyse
happened to secure a longer-lasting treaty in 1666:
Khadir Ghaïlan hoped to support a pretender against the new Alawid
and things subsequently went so badly for him that he was obliged to abide by its terms until his death in 1673.
The English took advantage of the respite to improve greatly the Portuguese defences.
They also planned to improve the harbour by building a mole
, which would have allowed it to play the same role that Gibraltar
later played in British naval strategy. Incompetence, waste and outright fraud and embezzlement caused costs to swell; among those enriched was Samuel Pepys
The mole cost £
340,000 and reached 1,436 ft (438 m) long before its destruction.
Although funding was found for the fortifications, the garrison's pay was delayed until in December 1677 it was 21
years in arrears; Governor Fairborne
dealt with the ensuing mutiny
by seizing one of the soldier's muskets
and killing him with it on the spot.
An attempt by Sultan Moulay Ismail
of Morocco to seize the town in 1679 was unsuccessful; but longstanding exasperation with the colony's finances
and a crippling blockade by Jaysh al-Rifi
pushed Parliament to write off the effort in 1680.
At the time, Tangier's population consisted of only about 700 apart from the thousand-man garrison; Governor Kirke
estimated 400 of them had suffered gonorrhea
from the same "mighty pretty" whore.
Forces under Lord Dartmouth
(including Samuel Pepys
) methodically destroyed the town and its port facilities for five months prior to Morocco's occupation of the city on 7 February 1684.
The Spanish attacked the city in 1790
but the city grew until, by 1810, its population reached 5,000.
Italian revolutionary hero Giuseppe Garibaldi
lived in exile at Tangier in late 1849 and the first half of 1850, following the fall of the revolutionary Roman Republic
Tangier's geographic location made it a cockpit of European
diplomatic and commercial rivalry in Morocco in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
By the 1870s, it was the site of every foreign embassy and consul in Morocco but only held about 400 foreign residents out of a total population of around 20,000.
The city increasingly came under French influence, and it was here in 1905 that Kaiser Wilhelm II
triggered an international crisis
that almost led to war between his country and France by pronouncing himself in favour of Morocco's continued independence, with an eye to its future acquisition by the German Empire
. The Algeciras Conference
which ended the standoff left Tangier's police
training and customs
collections in international hands
but Britain's strong support of its "Entente Cordiale
" with France ended German hopes concerning Morocco.
Improved harbour facilities were completed in 1907, with an inner and outer mole
In the years leading up to the First World War
, Tangier had a population of about 40,000, about half Muslim, a quarter Jewish
, and a quarter European Christians. Of the Europeans, about three-quarters were Spanish artisans and labourers.
In 1912, Morocco was effectively partitioned between France
; Spanish Morocco
covered the country's far north and far south
while the French protectorate
covered the central remainder. The last Sultan of independent Morocco, Moulay Hafid
, was exiled to the Sultanate Palace
in the Tangier kasbah after his forced abdication in favour of his brother Moulay Yusef
Tangier was made an international zone
in 1923 under the joint administration of France, Spain and Britain
under an international convention signed in Paris on 18 December 1923. Ratifications were exchanged in Paris on 14 May 1924. The convention was registered in League of Nations Treaty Series
on 13 September 1924.
The convention was amended in 1928.
The governments of Italy
adhered to the convention in 1928, and the government of the Netherlands
in 1929. The standard-gauge
Franco-Spanish Tangier–Fez Railway
: Compagnie Franco-Espagnole du Tanger–Fès
) was constructed from 1919 to 1927.
The international statute of Tangier promoted the formation of a cosmopolitan society where Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived together with reciprocal respect and tolerance. A town where men and women, with many different political and ideological tendencies, found refuge, including Spaniards from the right or from the left, Jews fleeing Nazi Germany and Moroccan nationalists. With very liberal economic and fiscal laws, Tangier became - in an international environment full of restrictions, prohibitions and monopolies - a tax haven with absolute freedom of trade.
The International Zone of Tangier had a 373 km2
(144 sq mi) area and, by the World War II
, a population of about 50,000 inhabitants: 30,000 Muslims; 12,000 Jews; and 8,000-odd Europeans, with a decreasing proportion of working-class Spaniards.
However, Spanish troops occupied Tangier on 14 June 1940, the same day Paris fell to the Germans
. Despite calls by Spanish nationalists to annex "Tánger español
", the Franco regime
publicly considered the occupation a temporary wartime measure
A diplomatic dispute between Britain and Spain over the latter's abolition of the city's international institutions in November 1940 led to a further guarantee of British rights and a Spanish promise not to fortify the area.
The territory was restored to its pre-war status on October 11, 1945.
In July 1952 the protecting powers met at Rabat
to discuss the Zone's future, agreeing to abolish it. Tangier joined with the rest of Morocco
following the restoration of full sovereignty in 1956.
At the time of the handover, Tangier had a population of around 40,000 Muslims; 31,000 Christians; and 15,000 Jews.
Still basking in the Zone's countercultural
glow and close by the kif
-producing Rif Mountains
, Tangier formed part of the hippie trail
of the 1960s and '70s.
It became less popular and tourist attractions became run-down as cheap flights made central Moroccan cities like Marrakesh
more accessible to European tourists; crime rose and a somewhat dangerous reputation drove more tourists away.
Since 2010, however, King Mohammed VI
has made a point of restoring the city's shipping and tourist facilities and improving its industrial base. Among other improvements, the beach was cleaned and lined with new cafes
; the new commercial port means cruise ships
no longer unload beside cargo containers.
Tangier from space (2005)
Central Tangier lies about 23 km (14 mi) east of Cape Spartel
, the southern half of the Strait of Gibraltar
It nestles between two hills at the northwest end of the Bay of Tangier
, which historically formed the best natural harbour anywhere on the Moroccan coast before the increasing size of ships required anchorage to be made further and further from shore.
The shape of the gradually-rising underlying terrain creates the effect of the city as an amphitheatre
, with the commercial district in the middle.
The western hill (French
: La Montagne
) is the site of the city's citadel or kasbah
. The eastern hill forms Cape Malabata
sometimes mooted as the point for a strait crossing
(Years of studies have, however, made no real progress thus far.)
is a plateau about 1,189 metres (3,900 ft) long spreading west of downtown along the sea.
Tangier has a mediterranean climate
) with heavier rainfall than most parts of North Africa and nearby areas on the Iberian Peninsula
owing to its exposed location.
The prevailing winds
blow from the sea and have kept the site generally healthy even in earlier times with much poorer sanitation.
The summers are relatively hot and sunny and the winters are wet and mild. Frost is rare, although a new low of −4.2 °C (24.4 °F) was recorded in January 2005.
Historically, the city proper within the medina
("Old Town") was divided into 14 districts based upon the Berber clans who resettled Tangier after the departure of the English.
The current prefecture is divided administratively into the following:
Port of Tangier
Tangier's economy relies heavily on tourism
. Seaside resorts
have been increasing with projects funded by foreign investments
. Real estate
and construction companies have been investing heavily in tourist infrastructures. A bay delimiting the city centre extends for more than 7 km (4 mi). The years 2007 and 2008 were particularly important for the city because of the completion of large construction projects; these include the Tangier-Mediterranean port ("Tanger-Med
") and its industrial parks, a 45,000-seat sports stadium, an expanded business district, and a renovated tourist infrastructure.
Tanger-Med, a new port 40 km (25 mi) outside Tangier proper, began construction in 2004 and became functional in 2007. Its site plays a key role in connecting maritime regions, as it is in a very critical position on the Strait of Gibraltar, which passes between Europe and Africa. The makeup of the new port is 85% transhipment 15% for domestic import and export activities.
The port is distinguished by its size, infrastructure, and efficiency in managing the flow of ships. Tanger-Med has linked Morocco to Europe's freight industry. It has also helped connect Morocco to countries in the Mediterranean, Africa, and America. The port has allowed Tangier to become a more globalised city with new international opportunities that will help facilitate economic growth.
The construction and operation of the port aimed to create 120,000 new jobs, 20,000 at the port and 100,000 resulting from growing economic activity.
in the area of Tangier is tertiary and mainly cereal. The city is chiefly famed for tangerines
, a kind of mandarin orange
hybrid first grown in the orchards then once south of the medina
, but it was never commonly exported. As early as 1900, local consumption had already outstripped supply and required imports from Tetuan
Mass farming of tangerines instead began in Florida
in the United States
, where the first tree was introduced at Palatka
by a Major Atway sometime before 1843.
Artisanal trade in the medina
("Old City") specialises mainly in leather working
, handicrafts made from wood and silver, traditional clothing, and Moroccan-style shoes.
The city has grown quickly due to rural exodus
from other smaller cities and villages. The 2014 population is more than three-times larger than 32 years ago (850.000 inhabitants in 2014 vs. 250,000 in 1982).
This phenomenon has resulted in the appearance of peripheral suburban districts, mainly inhabited by poor people, that often lack sufficient infrastructure.
American Legation entrance
Mohammed V Mosque
The old town is still surrounded by the remains of what was once more than 1,829 metres (6,000 ft) of stone rampart. Most of it dates to the town's Portuguese occupation, with restoration work later undertaken at different times. Three major bastions were the Irish Tower (Bordj al-Naʿam
), York Castle (Bordj dar al-Barud
), and the Bordj al-Salam
Tangier's Ibn Batouta International Airport and the rail tunnel will serve as the gateway to the Moroccan Riviera, the littoral area between Tangier and Oujda. Traditionally, the northern coast was a rural stronghold, with some of the best beaches on the Mediterranean
. It is slated for rapid urban development. The Ibn Batouta International Airport has been modernised to accommodate more flights. The biggest airline at the airport is Royal Air Maroc
Tangier offers four types of education systems: Arabic, French, Spanish and English. Each offers classes starting from pre-Kindergarten up to the 12th grade, as for German in the three last years of high school. The Baccalaureat
, or high school diploma
are the diplomas offered after clearing the 12 grades.
Many universities are inside and outside the city. Universities like the Institut Superieur International de Tourisme (ISIT), which grants diplomas, offer courses ranging from business administration
to hotel management
. The institute is one of the most prestigious tourism
schools in the country. Other colleges such as the École Nationale de Commerce et de Gestion (ENCG-T
) is among the biggest business schools
in the country as well as École Nationale des Sciences appliquées (ENSA-T
), a rising engineering school
for applied sciences. University known as Abdelmaled Essaadi holding many what they mainly known as faculties; Law, Economics and Social sciences (FSJEST
) and the FST of Technical Sciences. and the most attended Institut of ISTA of the OFPPT.
There are more than a hundred Moroccan primary schools
, dispersed across the city. Private and public schools, they offer education in Arabic, French and some school English until the 5th grade. Mathematics, Arts, Science Activities and nonreligious modules are commonly taught in the primary school.
International primary institutions
International high schools
Young Ladies on a Terrace in Tangiers
(1880s) by Rudolf Ernst
"Never in my life have I observed anything more bizarre than the first sight of Tangier. It is a tale out of the Thousand and One Nights
... A prodigious mix of races and costumes...This whole world moves about with an activity that seems feverish."
When Count de Mornay
traveled to Morocco in 1832 to establish a treaty supportive of the recent French annexation of Algeria
, he took along the Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix
. Delacroix not only reveled in the orientalism
of the place; he also took it as a new and living model for his works on classical antiquity
: "The Greeks and Romans are here at my door, in the Arabs who wrap themselves in a white blanket and look like Cato or Brutus..."
He sketched and painted watercolours continuously, writing at the time "I am like a man in a dream, seeing things he fears will vanish from him." He returned to his sketches and memories of North Africa for the rest of his career, with 80 oil paintings like The Fanatics of Tangier
and Women of Algiers
becoming legendary and influential on artists such as Van Gogh
, and Picasso
. They were particularly struck by the quality of the light: to Cézanne
, "All this luminous colour... seems... that it enters the eye like a glass of wine running into your gullet and it makes you drunk straight away".
Tangier subsequently became an obligatory stop for artists seeking to experience the colours and light he spoke of for themselves—with varying results. Matisse
made several sojourns in Tangier, always staying at the Grand Hotel Villa de France. "I have found landscapes in Morocco," he claimed, "exactly as they are described in Delacroix's paintings." His students in turn had their own; the Californian artist Richard Diebenkorn
was directly influenced by the haunting colours and rhythmic patterns of Matisse's Morocco paintings.
In the 1940s and until 1956 when the city was an International Zone
, the city served as a playground for eccentric millionaires, a meeting place for secret agents
and a variety of crooks and a mecca for speculators and gamblers, an Eldorado for the fun-loving "Haute Volée". During the Second World War
the Office of Strategic Services
operated out of Tangier for various operations in North Africa.
Around the same time, a circle of writers emerged which was to have a profound and lasting literary influence. This included Paul Bowles
, who lived and wrote for over half a century in the city, Tennessee Williams
and Jean Genet
as well as Mohamed Choukri
(one of North Africa
's most controversial and widely read authors), Abdeslam Boulaich
, Larbi Layachi
, Mohammed Mrabet
and Ahmed Yacoubi
. Among the best known works from this period is Choukri's For Bread Alone
. Originally written in Classical Arabic, the English edition was the result of close collaboration with Bowles (who worked with Choukri to provide the translation and supplied the introduction). Tennessee Williams
described it as "a true document of human desperation, shattering in its impact." Independently, William S. Burroughs
lived in Tangier for four years and wrote Naked Lunch
, whose locale of Interzone
is an allusion to the city.
After several years of gradual disentanglement from Spanish and French colonial control, Morocco reintegrated the city of Tangier at the signing of the Tangier Protocol
on 29 October 1956. Tangier remains a very popular tourist destination for cruise ships and day visitors from Spain
Most of the inhabitants of Tangier speak a very distinctive variety of Moroccan Arabic
that differs from other Darija counterparts. The difference resides in pronunciation, tempo, grammar and a unique vocabulary, heavily influenced by Spanish
Written Arabic is used in government documentation and on road signs together with French. French is taught in primary schools and high schools and used in universities and large businesses. Spanish is well understood (mainly by Tangierian locals exclusively) and spoken fluently. English, on the other hand, has been and still is used in tourist sectors, British accent is more common due to Gibraltar proximity.
The autochthonous population of Tangiers has been declining drastically since the mid 2000s, as the locals especially of young generation moved to the once governing entities of Spain and Gibraltar. While the industrial sector is expanding constantly, the internal immigration from the south to north is increasing rapidly. As a consequence, the Tangierian dialect is losing its distinctiveness or being altered (in a recent study, social media has been depicted as one of these factors).
Nowadays, the Tangierian dialect is less heard in public places and southern Darija dialect is more prominent in the area, to the extent that some observers question if Tangier retains its identity as it was before.
Due to its Christian past, it remains a titular see
of the Roman Catholic Church
Originally, the city was part of the larger Roman province of Mauretania Caesariensis
, which included much of North Africa. Later the area was subdivided, with the eastern part keeping the former name and the newer part receiving the name of Mauretania Tingitana
. It is not known exactly at what period there may have been an episcopal see at Tangier in ancient times, but in the Middle Ages Tangier was used as a titular see
(i.e., an honorific fiction for the appointment of curial and auxiliary bishops), placing it in Mauretania Tingitana. For the historical reasons given above, one official list of the Roman Curia
places the see in Mauretania Caesarea.
Under the Portuguese, the diocese of Tangier
was a suffragan
but, in 1570, it was united with the diocese of Ceuta
. Six Bishops of Tangier from this period are known, the first—who did not reside in his see—in 1468. During the era of the French and Spanish protectorates over Morocco, Tangier was the residence of the Prefect Apostolic
of Morocco, the mission having been founded on 28 November 1630 and entrusted to the Friars Minor
. At the time, it had a Catholic church, several chapels, schools and a hospital. The Prefecture Apostolic was raised to the status of Vicariate Apostolic
of Marocco on 14 April 1908. On 14 November 1956, it became the Archdiocese of Tangier
The indigenous Tangierians regard football as the primary entertainment when it comes to sport-material. There are several football fields around the city. Tangier would have been one of the host cities for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations
football tournament, which would be played at the new Ibn Batouta Stadium and in other cities across Morocco, until Morocco was banned from participating the Africa Cup of Nations
due to their denial.
Basketball comes the second most practised sport in Tangier. The city is known for their local teams IRT, Ajax Tanger, Juventus Tangier and so on.
Museum of the American Legation
, whose building was granted to the United States in 1821 by the Sultan Moulay Suliman served as a consulate of the United States and a later legation, as well as a high traffic post for the intelligence agents of the Second World War and a Peace Corps training facility. Today, its courtyards and narrow corridors serve as an elaborate museum that demonstrates relations between the United States and Morocco and the Moroccan heritage, including a wing dedicated to Paul Bowles
, where you can see the documents and photographs of the writer donated to the museum by the gallerist and friend of the writer Gloria Kirby
Fondation Lorin (Musée de la Fondation Lorin), Rue Abdallah Ben Hachimi 44. An art museum, or maybe rather an archive related to the history of Tangier opened in 1930 in a former synagogue. In addition to art, there are newspapers, photographs and posters on display.
In popular culture
The poster of the 1949 French film Mission in Tangier
captures the atmosphere of espionage associated with the city.
Tangier has been reputed as a safe house
for international spying
Its position during the Cold War
and during other spying periods of the 19th and 20th centuries is legendary.
Tangier acquired the reputation of a spying and smuggling centre and attracted foreign capital due to political neutrality and commercial liberty at that time. It was via a British bank in Tangier that the Bank of England
in 1943 for the first time obtained samples of the high-quality forged British currency produced by the Nazis in "Operation Bernhard
Twin towns – sister cities
- Algeciras, Spain
- Bizerte, Tunisia
- Cádiz, Spain
- Da Nang, Vietnam
- Faro, Portugal
- Liège, Belgium
- Metz, France
- Puteaux, France
- Saint-Denis, Réunion, France
- Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, Belgium
- Santiago, Chile
- Sétif, Algeria
Panoramic view of Tangier
The Palace of Justice, c. 1900
The Palace of Justice, 2015
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