Wanting to follow in the footsteps of some of my idols; I landed in Tangier full of the hope of uncovering the inspiration that drove so many crazed poets and deranged authors to pen some of literature’s finest works. I wanted to experience the thrilling suspicion of lutes played in the darkened corners of shisha tinted street café’s. I wanted the run-down seedy kaleidoscopic Interzone of Burroughs’s naked lunch.
Sat at the apex of the Arab world as the northernmost point of Morocco, and bordering two oceans (the Mediterranian and Atlantic) – Tangier is the link between Europe and Africa and as such is still a cultural melting pot. With Spain less than an hours ferry away and French colonialisation a not too far gone relic the travellers need for an Arabic translation dictionary is minimal if not defunct; though local traders, renowned world-wide as unscrupulous wingers and charlatans, will allow their prices to be haggled more successfully if business is conducted in Arabic rather than Spanish or the institutionally despised French.
The 20th Century saw Tangier become a playground for thrill-seekers and sordid undertakings due to its unique geo-political positioning and historical ownership disputes. No one country wanted to take control so pretty much anything went if you had a small donation for the local constabulary. France pulled out, Spain only wanted their enclave Ceuta(a small area still under Spanish law to this day) and the Moroccan Kings washed their hands of the entire region. In fact, Tangier is still recognised as having international status though the present King, Mohammed VI, made the area one of his priority regeneration projects when he assended to the throne in 1999. This was the Tangier of folklore, where Burroughs, Kerouac, Ginsberg and Hemingway found the creative freedom that liberated their literature and opened the barriers to the individual nature of their genius through the relative disregard for law that the place held.
These days however, Tangier is different. The regeneration efforts previously mentioned have transformed the city into a bustling, thriving trade and tourism centre. Billions of Dirham have been pumped into hotel complexes, a revamped trade port (Tangier-Med), industrial parks and even a new 45,000 seat sports stadium that have changed the face of Tangier without uprooting its charm and beauty. So the Tangier of today is markedly less seedy than the 20th century version but that atmosphere still permeates, as if the ground is nostalgically whispering tales of debauchery the populace has almost forgotten.