Tangier, Morocco

Reference work entry


Situated in a bay on the Strait of Gibraltar on the northern coast of Morocco, Tangier is 27 km from the southern tip of Spain and commands the western entrance to the Mediterranean. It has been ruled and occupied by the British, Spanish, Portuguese and the Arabs, and for over 40 years enjoyed status as an international city before being integrated with the rest of Morocco on independence in 1956.


A Phoenician trading post, the town became a Carthaginian settlement around 500 BC and then a Roman settlement called Tingis. After the destruction of Carthage it was affiliated with the Berber kingdom of Mauretania. It then became an autonomous state under Roman protection, eventually becoming a Roman colony in the third century during the reign of Diocletian, and ending as the capital of Mauretania Tingitana. For 300 years, from the fifth century onwards, it changed hands between the Vandals, the Byzantines and the Arabs. From the eighth to the fifteenth centuries it was occupied by Islamic dynasties and became an important Mediterranean port trading with Europe. In 1471 the Portuguese conquered the city who, along with the Spanish, ruled until 1662 when it was given to Charles II as part of the dowry of Catherine of Berganza. After an unsuccessful attempt by Moulay Ismail to seize the city in 1679, the British destroyed and abandoned it whereupon it fell into decline until the mid-nineteenth century when Europe adopted it as a diplomatic centre. At the Algeciras Conference in 1906, attended by the European powers, Tangier and a surrounding area were granted special status as an International Zone. The city was governed by an international commission with the Sultan as nominal ruler. In 1929 Spain was given police powers, taking total control during WWII from 1940–45 when it once more came under international authority until joining Morocco following that country’s independence in 1956.

Modern City

With its close proximity to Spain and Gibralter, visitors can explore the city on a day-trip. Excellent road and rail connections with other major towns make it a good starting point for further touring. Otherwise Tangier is primarily a shipping centre with some building trade, fishing and a textile industry, mainly dealing in carpets. Rural activities include poultry farming and market gardening. The old town (medina), enclosed by fifteenth century ramparts, has the Grand Socco and the Petit Socco markets. The university was founded in 1971.

Places of Interest

The Museum of Moroccan Arts is located in the prince’s apartments of the seventeenth century palace, Dar el Makhzen, once the governor’s residence, in the Place de la Kasbah. The palace’s kitchens now house the Museum of Antiquities. The Sidi Bouabid Mosque dominates the medina and the trees in the Mendoubia Gardens are 800 years old. The Forbes Museum has a collection of 115,000 toy soldiers that belonged to the American billionaire Malcolm Forbes. The American Legation Museum documents the history of the relationship between Morocco and the USA.

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

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