Magazine article Foreign Policy

Tangier, Morocco: Samir Daoudi on How to Vacation like Elizabeth Taylor and Where to Eat Lamb-Brain Sandwiches

Magazine article Foreign Policy

Tangier, Morocco: Samir Daoudi on How to Vacation like Elizabeth Taylor and Where to Eat Lamb-Brain Sandwiches

Article excerpt

TANGIER HAS KNOWN many masters. After its establishment over 2,000 years ago, the Moroccan city perched on the Strait of Gibraltar, just 17 miles south of Spain, served as a key trading post for a parade of imperial powers, including the Phoenicians, Romans, and Portuguese. This diverse colonial past left its mark. In the 20th century, Tangier's reputation as a cultural melting pot--as well as its Mediterranean climate, white-sand beaches, and plentiful hashish--attracted a slew of notable bohemians. Paul Bowles and William S. Burroughs both called it home at one time. Today, the city is defined as much by European architecture as by its traditional mosques. Locals gab in a fluid mix of Arabic, Spanish, and sometimes French.

According to fixer Samir Daoudi, Tangier's cosmopolitan legacy is evident "at every turn," particularly in the medina, a constellation of medieval alleyways, traditional markets, and outdoor cafes. But recent infrastructural developments have added a modern touch to the city, offering a glimpse of its economic potential. And the nearby port of Tanger-Med, in operation since 2007, is now one of the Mediterranean's largest cargo harbors. The Moroccan government is building a rapid-transit system that will link Tangier to Rabat and to Casablanca. "The idea is that Tangier can be more than a way station between North Africa and Europe," says 39-year-old Daoudi. Even with investment, however, the city can't escape the significance of its geography: Hundreds of African migrants have set up impromptu camps on Tangier's fringes--final stops on their way to Europe.

Daoudi, who has fixed for a range of media outlets, gave FOREIGN POLICY a tour of the city that has long been a refuge--for displaced persons and vagabonds alike.


One of my favorite places is TABADOUL, which is in the old city. The name means "exchange" in Arabic, and the venue really lives up to its billing. It tends to host artists who like to fuse Moroccan sounds with other kinds of music, such as soul or jazz. Mostly local musicians perform, but sometimes acts from Europe play as well.



The medina, which was built by the Portuguese in the 15th century, is the city's historic heartbeat. Just wandering around, you will get a strong sense of all the ghosts of people who lived in Tangier. One of the best museums in the City, KASBAH MUSEUM, is in the heart of the medina. It used to be a palace, and each room has an exhibition--from Roman ceramics to Arabic jewelry representing different periods in the city's history. …

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