Tangier & the north




Medina • History • Nature • Art

Best time to visit

March to October


Gentlemen in djellabas (long traditional outer robes) sit at the Café Central, on the Petit Socco square at the heart of Tangier’s ancient medina, sipping their noss noss: half coffee, half milk. They are absorbed in an animated conversation, which mixes Arabic, Berber, Spanish and French. They are observed by a group of travellers on a Beat generation pilgrimage, who are here to imagine a 1950s Tangier, an “International Zone” governed in six-month turns by foreign countries and populated with artists from Europe and America.

Tangier is where Paul Bowles wrote The Sheltering Sky (1949), where Degas, Delacroix and Matisse nurtured their Orientalist inspiration, where William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Truman Capote and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry came for exotic living or a puff of kif (marijuana) at a legendary café perched on a cliff, Café Hafa. Tangier has always been a place that has invited mystery and drama - a world of secret agents (no wonder James Bond’s Spectre was shot there) and smugglers, a world of poets and painters. It is where the Mediterranean and the Atlantic meet, where an international past and a forward-looking future come together. Neglected during the reign of King Hassan II, Tangier’s metamorphosis began in the early 2000s when investors gained a new interest in this border city and built Tangier Med, the largest port in Africa and the Mediterranean.

While its Spanish theater The Cervantes is falling apart, Tangier’s modern cultural scene is on the rise. It’s home to North Africa’s first cinema, the Cinema Rif, created by artist Yto at the on the central Grand Socco square. Today, the Rif is dedicated to screening art house films and organizing specialist workshops, and is adored by cinema lovers throughout the world. A literary district has also bloomed only a few blocks away, up the rue de la Liberté to the Terrace des Paresseux (literally, the terrace of the idle), passing by the El Minzah hotel and Galerie Delacroix

The legendary Librairie des Colonnes, a chic international bookshop and publishing house, was founded in 1949 and quickly became the haunt of famous writers like Samuel Beckett and Tennessee Williams. This institution, famous for setting the tone of intellectual Tangier, was expertly restored in 2010. In the same year, it was joined by the new literary destination Les Insolites. Designed by French expat author Stéphanie Gaou, it’s a smart urban intellectual center with frequent book signings and art exhibitions.

Down on the beachfront, on Boulevard Mohammed VI, the most recent creation of Tangier’s contemporary arts scene is the Border Factory, a former clothing factory revamped into an artists’ residency, exhibition and co-working space. Tangier continues to reveal to the discerning traveler a more (multi)cultural edge that makes it truly unique.


Learn more

• Air France Magazine, I love Tangier and I don't know why
by Moroccan writer Tahar Benjelloun

• The New York Times, Lost in Tangier
• Financial Times, Bohemian Tangiers and the Moroccan musicians who inspired the beats
• W, Tales from North Africa: Tangier Morocco Art


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