At the foot of the famous Cave of Hercules, where the waters of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean mingle, at the entrance of the Strait of Gibraltar, this splendid natural bay has been coveted for over 2500 years, conquered, then regained.
The Phoenicians were the first to settle there as early as 500 BC. Their trade posts Liks (Larache), Tingis (Tangier) and Tamuda (Tetuan) allow trade with the interior of the country and relays on the gold road.
Rome soon succeeds in Carthage. Tangier (tingis), becomes the capital of Mauretania Tingitana, the most prosperous Roman province.
At the dawn of the seventh century, the Arabs crossed the Isthmus of Suez and soon reach the estreme Maghreb. After many attempts of invasion, they finally succeeded and gradually and harmoniously integrated into the local Berber population.
But these are not the only ones to covet the “Pearl of the Strait”: From the Spaniards, the city passed to masters of Morocco, before it fell in the hands of the Portuguese in the fifteenth century and the English in the seventeenth century.
In the late nineteenth century, it became diplomatic capital of Morocco where 10 to 15 nations are represented. At that time, Tangier is one of the few cities in Africa to be equipped with electricity and telephone. It had the first cinemas, theaters, casinos, dance halls …
The protectorate treaty with France signed 30 March, 1912 entrusted France with the major part of the country. Spain was entrusted with the zone of influence of the North (Rif) on November 27, 1912. However, Tangier, standing out of the country, became the International Zone of Tangier, under the regime of permanent neutrality, until 1960, four years after Morocco’s independence. That was a unique phenomenon in the history of world law.
A tax haven, this Zone or rather Interzone as it was called, was an autonomous entity, free from any external tax dependence. No restriction on right to bring in gold without paying any customs duties or taxes.
There were several post offices of different nationalities and several currencies were used. Numerous banks from diverse origins settled in making fortune by speculating on exchange rates.
Playing its cosmopolitan charm, Tangier bewitched generations of artists and writers. Today, every visitor is a potential pilgrim who pay tribute to legendary venues: The Hafa cafe where Paul Bowles loved to dream; Villa Muniria where the famous Beats lived: Kerouac, Burroughs and Ginsberg. El Minzah where Jean Genet and the Rolling Stones used to stay; the Villa de France, where Delacroix and Matisse stayed; Pension Fuentes which welcomed Camille Saint-Saens, the Dean’s Bar whose champagne Francis Bacon or Ian Fleming did honor … Others still succumbed to mystery: Pierre Loti, Maurice Ravel, Paul Morand, Antonio Gaudi, Samuel Beckett …
The international jet-set has kept close ties with Tangier and have luxury homes in the Kasbah, Mershan and the Old Mountain.