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Tangier (in Berber and Arabic Tanja, in Spanish Tánger and in French Tanger) is a city of northern Morocco with a population of 350,000, or 550,000 including suburbs. It lies on the North African coast at the western entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Spartel.



According to Berber mythology, Tangier was built by the son of Tinjis , named Sufax . Tinjis was the wife of the Berber hero Antaios. There are other stories of Tangier being founded by Hercules. The cave or grotte of Hercules is only a few miles off the city. This cave is a major tourist attraction because of its association with Greek mythology. It is believed that it was there where Hercules slept before attempting one of his 12 labors.

Tangier was an important city for the Berber, and still is inhabited by the Berber and the Arabs, and even the name may come from the Berber goddess Tinjis (or Tinga).

Founded by Carthaginian colonists in the early 5th century BC, the settlement of Tingis came under Roman rule as the capital of Tingitana . In the 5th century Vandals conquered and occupied "Tingi" and from here swept across North Africa. A century later it became part of the Byzantine empire before passing under Arab control in 702. Held by the Portuguese from 1471 and by the British Garrison from 1661 to 1684, it returned to Moroccan control in 1684.

For nearly three centuries the town was passed back and forth between the Spanish, Portuguese and finally the English, when it was given to Charles II as part of the dowry from Catherine of Braganza. The English granted Tangier a charter which made the city equal to English towns. In 1679, the sultan Moulay Ismail made an unsuccessful attempt to seize the town but maintained a crippling blockade which ultimately led to a British retreat. However, the British destroyed the town and its port facilities prior to their departure. Under Moulay Ismail the city was reconstructed to some extent but the city gradually declined until by 1810 the population was no more than 5,000.

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. In 1777, Morocco was the first nation in the world to recognize the United States&sup1.

Tangier's geographical location made it a centre for European diplomatic and commercial activity in Morocco in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was here that the German Kaiser Wilhelm II's pronouncement for Morocco's continued independence triggered an international crisis in 1905.

In 1912, Morocco was effectively partitioned between France and Spain, the latter occupying the country's far north and a strip of the southern Atlantic coast. Tangier was made an international zone in 1923 under the joint administration of France, Spain, and Britain (Italy joined in 1928).

After a period of effective Spanish control from 1940 to 1945 during World War II, Tangier was reunited with the rest of Morocco following the country's independence in 1956.


The multicultural placement of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities and the foreign immigrants attracted artists like Paul Bowles, William S. Burroughs, Tennessee Williams, Brion Gysin, and the collector Jim Ede who all lived in Tangier.

It was After Delacroix that Tangier became an obligatory stop for artists seeking to experience the colors and light he spoke of for themselves - with varying results.. Matisse made several sojourns in Tangier, always staying at the Hotel Villa de France. You can still visit his room where he painted the view out the window. "I have found landscapes in Morocco," he claimed, "exactly as they are described in Delacroix's paintings." The Californian artist Richard Diebenkorn was directly influenced by the haunting colors and rhythmic patterns of Matisse’s Morocco paintings.

Tangier also knew the rise of native authors such as Mohamed Choukri who is considered as one of North Africa's most controversial and widely read authors. Paul Bowles collaborated closely with Choukri on the translation, with an introduction, of "For Bread Alone: An Autobiography" witnessed by Tennessee Williams as 'A true document of human desperation, shattering in its impact.'

In the forties and fifties, when the city was an international zone, and apart from the artists, it served as a playground for eccentric millionaires, a meeting place for secret agents and all kinds of crooks, a Mekka for speculators and gamblers, an Eldorado for the fun-loving "Haute Volèe".

As a great collector of lead soldiers, the American billionaire Malcom Forbes and the publisher of the Forbes magazine brought together a total of 115,000 models to what is called now the "Forbes Museum" in Tangier. These figures re-enact the major battles of history; from Waterloo to Dien Bien Phû, realistically recreated with lighting and sound effects. Entire armies stand on guard in the showcases, while in the garden, 600 statuettes bear silent homage to the Battle of Three Kings.



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Last updated: 05-07-2005 16:09:35
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04