A mere ferry hop across the Gibraltar Strait from Tarifa in Spain, the mystical north African city of Tangier is another world in terms of culture and lifestyle: crowded, colourful and exhausting. But do it right and you’ll be seduced by the charms of a destination that was party central for the arty set during the 1920s-50s, when its International Zone was ruled by nine countries. Each culture left its mark - on the architecture, language and cuisine. Matisse and Degas came to paint, Yves Saint Laurent to design, billionaire Malcolm Forbes for his wedding to Elizabeth Taylor and the Rolling Stones for hashish. Tennessee Williams, Jack Kerouac and Paul Bowles came to write. You could spend all day revisiting their old cafe haunts but be prepared to drink a lot of mint tea as they’re unlicensed, unlike racier times of yore. With the King of Morocco’s pet project, the re-imagined and expanded Tangier Marina (soon to be operational) - you will be able to wine and dine al fresco and enjoy cocktails on the waterfront just as you can in Ocean Village. Tangier is reinventing itself as a hip beach resort! TOUR OR DIY? If it’s your first tango in Tangier, a full-day group tour from Gibraltar is a hassle-free introduction with the bonus of door-to-door transport. Most include a coastal detour to the Caves of Hercules at dramatic Cap Spartel, with a beach camel ride thrown in. With pre-planning and smartphone savvy you could also go it alone (but mind the street hustlers). Most hotels and some cafes have free wifi.
1. VILLE NOUVELLE For a different view of Tangier, the New Town offers no-haggle shopping western style on a boulevard showcasing 19th and 20th century architecture. Gran Café de Paris Commanding a prime people-watching position on Place du France, hence its appeal to WW2 spies and Matt Damon in The Bourne Ultimatum, the best pavement seats are often bagged by local male pensioners but it’s worth the wait.
Grand Hotel Villa de France Henri Matisse painted his famous Window at Tangier from Room 35 and his prints hang throughout this beautifully restored hotel, also a favourite with Delacroix. After the hurly burly of the adjacent Medina, it’s a fivestar oasis.
Terrasse des Paresseux Join the throng leaning on the cannons and lounging on the walls of the Idlers Terrace for spellbinding Strait views. The shoe shine boys and nut sellers are far from idle. The Minzah Hotel Opened by the Marquess of Bute, two years before her counterpart, Gibraltar’s Rock Hotel, this colonial grand dame is no spring-chicken at 87, but her Moorish courtyards retain the romance. Splurge on a cocktail in Caid’s Bar, where Iain Fleming enjoyed his triple-vodka breaks from writing Diamonds are Forever.
St Andrews Church An English church in a country of mosques, the cemetery is a homage to British and Commonwealth soldiers who died fighting in North Africa. For a tip, the caretaker will spill all kinds of interesting beans. The Berber Market Women of the Riff in wide-brimmed hats and striped shawls sell their fresh mountain produce around the walls of St Andrews every Thursday and Sunday morning.
For the best of both worlds, find a private guide on Trip Advisor to meet you off the ferry for a bespoke half-day tour. TANGIER HIGHLIGHTS For your convenience, we have chosen the best of five city zones which are do-able in a day in roughly the order suggested. Try three for relaxing, five for full-on or mix and match for your own perfect day. (Check the internet for opening hours.) PREMIER MAGAZINE
Published on Apr 23, 2015