Tangiers is definitely not a city for the unwary – children constantly pester tourists for alms and unofficial “guides” harass visitors at nearly every corner. And when night falls, the city can be unsafe. So why visit at all? Well, the city does have an off-beat charm as well as the reputation of being a celebrity magnet. And, of course, Tangiers served as the real-life inspiration for the setting of the classic movie Casablanca.
As in most Moroccan cities, the main attraction is the medina, or old quarter, which you enter from the gate near the Great Mosque. The most interesting destinations in the medina include the American Legation, where the US established a diplomatic mission in 1821 and today is a museum with works by Yves St. Laurent and James McBeay on display; the Grand Socco, a transportation hub where the new city’s streets give way to the narrower roads of the old city; and the Kasbah, which is located on a hill overlooking the city, and whose walls house the Dar el-Makhzen (a palace built by sultan Moulay Ismail in the 17th century). Today the palace is a museum that exhibits Moroccan art. There are also an abundance of mansions where visitors can sightsee, some of which are open to the public, like the one that used to belong to American multimillionaire Malcolm Forbes, which currently houses his collection of military miniatures.
In the Ville Nouvelle, or the new town, the most popular attraction is the Place de France, a meeting point for middle class residents and tourists. One of its most popular landmarks is the Gran Café de Paris, which like its fictional counterpart Rick’s Café, once served as a place where foreign spies, expatriates and Moroccan nationalists would gather.
Tourists can also swim in Tangiers’s beaches; the town beach, however, is filthy and poorly maintained. Go instead to the Atlantic beaches, located west of Tangiers, which are not only clean, but also located in one of the area’s most beautiful locations, ringed by mountains on all sides.