What to see, eat and buy in Tangier, the cultural magnet of Morocco


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Located about 20 miles from Spain at the tip of North Africa, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea, Tangier has been a coveted naval prize for centuries. Phenicia, the Roman Empire, several Islamic caliphates, Portugal, Spain, England and France all claimed this mountainous port city. After World War II, the city was an international zone, administered by several countries, until Morocco achieved independence in 1956 and regained full control of it. It was this colorful heritage and scenic setting that helped attract a steady stream of writers, artists and eccentrics in the mid-20th century, the city's bohemian heyday.

Today, Tangier's Tanger-Med port is the largest in Africa and serves as an international trade nexus. The city has around 1.3 million inhabitants, and the streets bustle with a mix of Arabic, French, Spanish and English, with many locals flitting easily between them all. Not surprisingly, given this rich history, the architecture is a stimulating mix of styles, from the whitewashed houses of the Kasbah (a citadel dating back to the 17th century) to the faded Art Deco hotels and cinemas of the Ville Nouvelle (new town). ). erected in the first half of the 20th century. But the most attractive new developments in the city are not led by expats but by locals. A five-minute walk from the Grand Café de Paris, made famous by the American writer and composer Paul Bowles and the American writer and artist William Burroughs, who frequented it in the 1940s and 1950s, you reach Rue Khalid Ibn El Oualid (also known as Calle Velázquez), a street in the heart of the old Spanish neighborhood, where young Tanjawis are slowly reviving the neighborhood. Here you will find Le Kiosk, a bookstore and print shop run by Hicham Bouzid, founder of the cultural organization Think Tanger, as well as contemporary galleries such as Zawia, opened by Najoua Elhitmi, who last year inaugurated a cultural space called Fábrica that occasionally hosts jazz concerts, speakers and exhibitions. Below, four experts, including expats who have made Tangier their home for decades and Moroccan-born entrepreneurs and designers, share their favorite places.

Originally from Tangier, the fashion designer Kenza Bennani is the founder of New Tangier, a bag and clothing brand that updates traditional Moroccan clothing and accessories.

The garden designer Madison Cox It is based in Marrakech, Tangier and New York.

The photographer Seif Kousmate He was born in Essaouira, Morocco, and in 2020 he moved to Tangier, where he runs the Alma Kitchen + Coffee restaurant with his wife, jewelry designer Lamiae Skalli.

The Italian novelist Umberto Pasti He divides his time between Milan and Rohuna, a town on the Atlantic coast southwest of Tangier.

“The best rental is Sarah Wheeler's house, Lalla Yenou. She's an English art dealer specializing in early 20th century photography and her house, which sleeps 10, is a mix of what we call Jebli, a mountainous aesthetic from northern Morocco that uses limewash pastel color combinations. (whites, pinks, lilacs and all shades of blue), minimalist architectural structures and lots of striped textiles, with a big dose of British comfort. I love it too Mimi Calpe, a 19th-century townhouse converted into a boutique hotel on the outskirts of the medina with a lush garden. “It is one of the few places in the center with a swimming pool.” Lalla Yenou, J'maa Mokra, can be booked via Instagram at @lallayenou, from about $1,635 a week; Mimí Calpe, 71 Rue de la Plage; rooms from about $165 a night. —Kenza Bennani

The Tangerine The Kasbah has spectacular views across the Strait towards Spain, but the owners also have apartments in the Grand Souk, the main square that divides the new town from the medina. You are in the heart of the city, one step away from everything, and you have that feeling of living properly in a place.” 19 Riad Sultan, Kasbah; rooms from about $80 a night, apartments from about $110 a night. —Madison Cox

Riad Mojtar local craftsmanship stands out in all its details. The use of contemporary colors in some of the zellige, the bold patterns on the walls and the modern furniture make it feel very fresh.” 31 Rue de la Kasbah, Aharrar Palace; rooms from about $150 a night. —Seif Kousmate

“I would stay in Auxiliary 3 Doors“owned by a French interior decorator who transformed his house into a small hotel overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar and filled it with beautiful objects and furniture.” 19 Rue Sidi Bouknadel, Kasbah; rooms from about $135 a night. —Umberto Pasti

“My friends Seif and Lamiae possess Alma Kitchen and Coffee, which serves proper barista-brewed coffee and modern dishes like charred whole eggplant with labneh, harissa oil, and pomegranate. Alma can have a reading or a talk and I always run into someone I know. It's kind of a hub for us locals. For drinks, the only place is Number onethat plays the best music in the city (jazz, blues and old school soul) and I can comfortably go alone.” Alma Kitchen & Coffee, Place des Nations 44, Rue Antaki; Number One, 1 Avenue Mohammed V. — KB

“It's hard to beat the rooftop in Villa Mabrouka, the new hotel by British designer Jasper Conran, for a drink. His idea of ​​adding a spiral staircase from the entrance courtyard leading directly to the roof, where you get the full view of the Strait, was inspired. Ana and Paulo It is a sweet Italian place run by a brother and sister who were born in Tangier. “It has a great neighborhood feel.” Villa Mabrouka, 1 Sidi Bouknadel; Anna and Paulo, 77, Avenue du Prince Héritier. -MC

“We are going to The Golden At least once a week. It is authentic, with a family and pleasant atmosphere. Grilled fish or garlic shrimp are excellent. And we love going to House of Italy for pizza. The covered terrace overlooking the garden and the old-school waiters do it.” El Dorado, 23 Allal Ben Abdellah Street; House of Italy, Palace of Italian Institutions (Palais Moulay Hafid). — SK

“I prefer to eat at people's houses, but I like darnawhich is a women's association that prepares very good Moroccan home cooking, including Friday couscous with lots of seasonal vegetables. Le Saveur de Poisson It is my favorite for a freshly caught fish soup, fragrant with Moroccan spices. Centuries ago, I loved going to The Minzah to have a martini at the piano bar.” Darna Community Restaurant, Rue Jules Cot/Place du 9 Avril Ruelle des Blaghis; Restaurant Le Saveur De Poisson, 2 Escalier Waller; Hotel El Minzah, 85 Rue de la Liberté. – ABOVE

“The Iranian ceramist Leyla Sadeghi makes beautiful pomegranates that pay homage to its Persian heritage and gorgeously extravagant teapots and mugs that incorporate three-dimensional depictions of cacti, thorns, and seashells into the design. You can visit his studio by appointment, and some of the pieces are available in the Kasbah Collective.” Leyla's studio, 7 Avenue Sidi Boukhairi, next to Mosque Nour, reservation via WhatsApp, +346-656 46796; Kasbah Collective, 30 Rue Kacem Gennoun. – K.B.

“Tangier has two excellent bookstores: The Librairie des Colonnes and The Insólites. Fifty years ago, the former was almost like a bank for authors like Jean Genet, who cashed their royalty checks there, and served mainly expatriates. “Now you have a young Moroccan community that knows how to read in French, Spanish, English and Arabic, so the stores have become an important resource for finding interesting literature.” La Librairie des Colonnes, address 54 Boulevard Pasteur; Les Insolites, 28 Khalid Ibn El Oualid. -MC

“We love going treasure hunting. Cheap house, a huge vintage market selling everything from furniture and lighting to electronics. You always come back with something you definitely don't need. The other day they gave us an old telephone booth from Tangier. And Kenza Bennani in New Tangier manufactures high quality clothing that incorporates exquisite handmade elements. ” Casbarata Souk, Abou El Kacem Acharif Sebti Avenue. New Tangier, 6 Rue Imam Soufiane Taouri, Merchan, Monday to Sunday by appointment only, 212 615 836 982” — SK

“The perfumer madini has been around since 1919 and produces the most amazing essential oils. I love oud and orange blossom.” Boulevard Pasteur, 5. – KB

“There is a little place at the top of the Grand Souk (the main square in the center of the city) where a guy sells the best nougat. It is a kind of institution. It is a sweet that feels very Tangier.” -MC

“Buy a limited edition print at The kiosk in Think of Tangier. The cultural organization runs the Print Club, a screen printing studio showcasing works by Tanjawi and Moroccan artists. “It also publishes a fantastic magazine called Makan, written by philosophers, artists and creatives from the Arab world.” 14 Khalid Ibn El Oualid. — SK

“A mendil (also known as a fouta) is a multi-purpose cloth from the J'bala tribes of northern Morocco and can be used for many purposes, although most foreigners use it for the beach or hammam. The best place to get one used to be the weaver's souk, Fondouk Chejra, near the Central Market. It is currently being renovated, so the weavers have temporarily moved to the Dradeb covered market, a short taxi ride away.” Souk Dradeb Q5M8+F4V, Rocade Dradeb. – ABOVE

“In the city, the Moroccan artist Yto Barrada cinematheque There is always an interesting art film or cultural event going on. It is one of the best independent cinemas in Africa. And their little café is the best place in the world to people-watch.” Grand Souk, Place du April 9, 1947. — KB

“The garden of Umberto Pasti in Rohuna It's a little Eden. He has saved a large number of plants native to the Tangier region and interspersed them with collections of regional folk art. It's extraordinary”. Atlantic Garden by Umberto Pasti, 9W2Q+572, Rohuna. -MC

“To disconnect we stayed in a small place with impressive views of the Atlantic called The Figuettes. It is very simple and is about 30 minutes walk from Sidi Mghaita long, wild beach with spectacular sunsets and delicious grilled sardines.” Dmina village, Asilah; rooms from about $50 a night. — SK

“Take the Agla Routea path that leads to the lighthouse Cape Spartel. “There is still a place there where most Spaniards had small country houses in the 1920s and 1930s. It was very popular with plant collectors in the late 19th century because there are some very rare subtropical trees there and the views are sensational.” . – ABOVE

“In the summer there are a lot of people, but the spring and fall are just wonderful. The weather is still fantastic and it is much easier to get around.” – K.B.

“Tanjawis tend to get up late, so my advice is to get up early. From 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. you will have the city to yourself. I like to stop at cinematheque to have a cup of tea and watch the city come to life. Walk through the Kasbah and the medina until you reach the center. It's magic.” — SK

These interviews have been edited and condensed.

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