Tangier–Close to Spain


A Tangier Sunset. Sharon Lundahl

In October we made our first ever visit to Tangier, Morocco’s gateway to Europe.  The purpose of our visit was to see a close friend, Lisa, from our diplomatic days.  She recently married a Moroccan-American,  and now splits her time between Morocco and the states.

Handmade Tiles in Lisa's House. © Sharon Lundahl

Handmade Tiles in Lisa’s House. © Sharon Lundahl

Lisa and Charlie have been engaged in a several-year struggle to build a Moroccan mansion in Tangier–with recalcitrant workmen and even cultural problems to overcome. Our friends have never lost their sense of humor about it all, and their experiences are similar to the hilarious house-building adventure in Casablanca that author Tahir Shah chronicled in his great book, “The Caliph’s House”..even to dealing with “djinns”, mischievous spirits that inhabit the house.

Shopping in Tangier. © Sharon Lundahl

Shopping in Tangier. © Sharon Lundahl

Being a Tangerine (resident of Tangier), Lisa knows the city intimately and was a great tour guide.  Tangiers, with the coast of Spain visible on the horizon, sometimes seems more like Europe than the Middle East.  Seacoast resorts filled with European-owned condos stretch away from the old city.

Although one hears the Islamic call to prayer, as in all Moroccan cities, few Tangerine women wear headscarves.

American Legation Museum. © Sharon Lundahl

American Legation Museum. © Sharon Lundahl

The old city still has a famous 1930’s gay bar, “Dean’s”, as well as a centuries-old English church which still holds services for a mostly elderly crowd.  Tangiers is also proud of being the home of many 20th-century expatriate writers, such as the American Paul Bowles and William Burroughs.

Fred Looking at Rugs.   Sharon Lundahl

Fred Looking at Rugs. Sharon Lundahl

Tangiers was the location of the first diplomatic embassy a young United States set up outside of Europe in the early 1800’s.  The purpose at the time was to deal with the 19th century hostage-taking issue of the Barbary Pirates, who preyed freely on U.S. shipping in the area until U.S. Marines intervened “to the shores of Tripoli.”

Selling Fish Products on the Street.  © Sharon Lundahl

Selling Fish Products on the Street. © Sharon Lundahl

The elegant old American Legation building inside the walls of the old city, which has been made into a museum, played a role in another hostage-taking episode a century later during Teddy Roosevelt’s time, when a mountain chieftain (played by actor Sean Connery in the film, The Wind and the Lion”) kidnapped the American consul.  Once again U.S. Marines marched in to force the Bey of Tangiers to ransom Consul Petticaris.  Hollywood naturally thought it best to change the gender of the hostage for dramatic effect, and the victim became Mrs. Petticaris (played by a feisty Candace Bergen.)

Door into the Kasbah.  © Sharon Lundahl

Door into the Kasbah. © Sharon Lundahl

Tangiers was an outstanding surprise.  A favorite outing was to the famous “Kasbah,” former residence of sultans.  We loved wandering in the medina, which was a dense maze of shops houses and narrow, steep paths and streets.

Lisa took us to great restaurants, and we especially remember long paper-covered tables at the port, hidden away from tourists, where local families feasted on freshly cooked platters of shrimp, fish and squid.  Wow.

In all, though, we loved Tangier better for its atmosphere, rather than any specific sights.  We hope to return, especially if our friends manage to rout the djinns from their house.

Vacation Pleasures on the Beaches of Tangier.  © Sharon Lundahl

Vacation Pleasures on the Beaches of Tangier. © Sharon Lundahl


2 Responses to “Tangier–Close to Spain”

  1. yasin

    sounds lovely and historical place. Beautiful colors in the carpets. wish u keep up ur visits and iformed us.
    Regards for bot of u


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