Since 2010, this rakish city on the Strait of Gibraltar has changed at an alarming rate. The container port has been outside of the city, the impenetrable Medina is safer, the beaches are cleaner, and the bay-front Corniche was in 2018. There has never been a better time to visit Tangier and rediscover the city that inspired Delacroix, Matisse, and Paul Bowles, as well as where William S. Burroughs wrote Naked Lunch.
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The White City’s maze-like Medina spills down the slope from the Kasbah to the north, providing brief glimpses of the Bay of Tangier through its gorge-like alleys. Tangier’s changing mood can also be in this old city, which was before off-limits to tourists. Petit Socco, with its cosmopolitan architecture and cafe terraces, harkens back to the days of the International Zone.
2 Dar el Makhzen
The palace built by Ismail Ibn Sharif (1672-1727), after re-conquering Tangier after two centuries of English occupation, presides over Medina’s northern alleys. Dar el Makhzen, built on the ruins of the English “Upper Castle,” served as the Sultans of Morocco’s house when they visited Tangier. The Museum of Moroccan Arts and Antiquities, also known as the Kasbah Museum, is at Dar el-Makhzen.
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3 Kasbah Museum
The palace is an excellent place to peruse hundreds of years of Moroccan craftsmanship up to the end of Tangier’s English period in 1684. Bronzes and mosaics from the Roman cities of Volubilis, Cotta, and Lixus are on display. There are also ancient pieces from closer to homes, such as urns, lead sarcophagi, and a reconstructed tomb from a Phoenician necropolis on the Kasbah Hill’s ocean side.
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4 Caves of Hercules
This cave, which is part natural and part man-made, is in legend and is on a rocky outcrop between two epic Atlantic beaches. According to legend, Hercules stayed here while preparing for his 11th labour. This was to steal this same apple from the Hesperides’ Garden. Some ancient Greek writers placed the garden near the ancient city of Lixus on the Atlantic coast.
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5 American Legation
The first property purchased by the United States abroad is in the very south of Medina. The American Legation was in this Moorish-style stuccoed building in 1821, and it is on the National Register of Historic Places in the United States. One diplomat’s letter describes receiving lions as a gift and wondering what to do with them.
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6 Cap Spartel
The scrub-topped promontory that traces the entry to the Strait of Gibraltar is up the coast from the Caves of Hercules. Cap Spartel, which is by a reserve, rises more than 300 metres above sea level. Spartel is still a sandbank with a peak 56 metres below the surface. The lighthouse atop the promontory was built in 1864 and was the first in Morocco in modern times.
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