City Slicker: Tangiers

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Money is pouring into this gateway to Africa, helping the city to shake off its seedy past. Ian McCurrach offers a guide for new and returning visitors


Why visit?


King Mohammed VI's recent investment in northern Morocco, with Tangiers as its focus, has rescued the once fashionable resort from festering.

The city is now joined to the capital Rabat, Casablanca, and the rest of the country by motorway and in five years the population has grown from 550,000 to a million. There is even talk of a new high-speed rail link to Marrakech. This city, just across the water from Europe, has undergone changes that reflect its strategic importance.

In its heyday, Tangiers was home to a raffish, literary and eccentric rich set including the writers Tennessee Williams and Paul Bowles, the artist Henri Matisse, and several Gettys. Later, it became synonymous with criminality, spies, drugs, and European men looking for cheap gay sex. Now the place is being brought up to date with deluxe new riads and chic hotels such as Le Mirage at Cap Spartel. The central waterfront area has been cleaned up as have historic areas such as the Kasbah, now home to numerous new restaurants, bars and clubs.

But, make no mistake, this city is still deeply rooted in the past – scams and petty crime abound in the medina – it still has an edge.

Don't miss

The Museum of Antiquities (maroc.net/museums) which houses treasures from prehistoric times to the 18th century in a former sultan's palace with peaceful inner courtyard.

The Tangier American Legation Museum (legation.org). The only US National Historical Landmark on foreign soil, this impressive five-storey mansion houses a collection cataloguing the city's past.

The newly renovated Grand Socco, with its palm-fringed plaza at the entrance to the medina. It is a focal point of the city, lined with cafés such as Al Mountazah.

The chance to sip tea in the 19th-century Gran Café, on Petit Socco. Soak up the atmosphere of the place, deep within the medina, where Tennessee Williams wrote Camino Real.

Seeing Cap Spartel, a windy promontory west of the city where the Atlantic meets the Med. The Grotto of Hercules, an impressive cave network, is close by.

What's new

Avenue Mohammed VI

The curving new corniche, Avenue Mohammed VI, runs uninterrupted alongside the city's expansive stretch of sandy beach. Having moved the once dominant central container port to a duty-free zone down the coast, the city's nautical focus is now the marina, for the yachting fraternity, and the busy ferry port, from which boats cross the Straits of Gibraltar to Spain and beyond. The beach side of the corniche is stacked with restaurants and bars that turn into discos after dark, such as Beach Club 555 (beachclub555.com) and Chellah Beach Club (chellahbeach club.com). The landside is a cluster of ritzy new apartments, cafés, bars and high-rise hotels such as the four-star Caesar. The forest of overhead cranes reveals the extent of construction work still planned.

Hotel Nord-Pinus Tanger

This design-savvy small riad boutique property opened last year and set a new Marrakech-style standard for Tangiers. The sprawling riad has an enviable position just inside the ramparts of the ancient sea wall in the Kasbah. It has just four guest suites and one double room spread across rue Riad Sultan, with plenty of public spaces for lounging. Big washes of contemporary colours are fused with traditional interiors packed with shiny chandeliers, rich wall hangings, arched doorways, Fez tiling, brass lamps and plenty of chic bric-a-brac. The upper-rooftop sun terraces are the highest in the Kasbah, affording great 360-degree views across the city and out to sea. The lower rooftop restaurant serves up a tasty mix of French and Moroccan fare and is open to non-residents for both lunch and dinner.

Details: nord-pinus-tanger.com

L'Africain

Just opened last summer, this new restaurant has a patio area, café, restaurant and rooftop cocktail bar. The theme is 1920s Tangiers, complete with waiters kitted out in smart white jackets, each wearing a traditional red fez. The walls are lined with old black and white photographs of the city and jazz music plays throughout. Dishes are a mix of French, Moroccan and Mediterranean cooking, served up with great flair.

Details: 3 rue Kachla, Kasbah (00 212 5 39 939676).

Cinémathèque Tanger

The former Cinéma Rif, on the Grand Socco, dates back to 1938. It was taken over by Cinémathèque de Tanger three years ago and refurbished as an arts complex. The centre is a hub for young artists, photographers, musicians, film makers, playwrights and lovers. There are two studios, a cinema and two theatres along with a rustic café and bar, which serves as a meeting place for the young. Much of the character of the original building such as the old ticket kiosks has been retained. Films with English subtitles are often shown on a big screen in the square to vast crowds.

Details: cinemathequedetanger.com.

Insider's secret: Annie Austin, owner of Secret Homes & Gardens

"Take tea at Madame Porte's, then stroll along the busy Boulevard Pasteur at dusk with glimpses of the ocean beyond. Visit the Librairie de Colonne (the best bookshop in town), and take coffee and gossip in the Moorish courtyard at Hotel El Minzah. Visit beautiful private houses and gardens owned by fascinating people, dip into the intriguing souks, stride out on walks by the wild ocean, and eat delicious fresh fish – sunshine and stunning light – jasmine on your pillow – wonderful people – magic!"

Details: annie@secretplaces.co.uk

Compact Facts

How to get there

Royal Air Maroc operated by Atlas Blue (atlas-blue.com) offers return flights from £175 per person. Hotel el Minzah (elminzah.com) offers doubles from £230 per night, including breakfast. The Moevenpick Hotel (moevenpick-hotels.com) offers double rooms from £230 per night, including breakfast.

Further information

Moroccan National Tourist Office (020-7437 0073; visitmorocco.com).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Content Assistant / Copywriter

    £15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Situated in the heart of Bradfo...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reception Manager

    £18750 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Hotel in Chadderton is a popular ch...

    Guru Careers: Marketing and Communications Manager

    £Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing and Co...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence