I’ve always wanted to visit Tangier. The city is at the meeting point of two continents and two seas, and it defies comparison with any other city in Morocco. For the first half of the 20th century, Tangier was an international city, with its own laws and its own administration. It attracted a lot of writers, including Paul Bowles, the American novelist whose “The Sheltering Sky” is arguably considered the best travel novel ever written. (After visiting the city, I read another book of his, “Let it Come Down”, which is set in Tangier, and which I really loved.) William S. Burroughs spent much of the 1950s in Tangier, which he referred to as “Interzone” in his books. He wrote Naked Lunch while living in Tangier. Tangier was also the world’s first and most famous gay resort, favored by people like Joe Orton and Tennessee Williams.
The city’s tourism future wasn’t looking too rosy for a while, though. Over the years, the city gained a reputation as a place to avoid, due to lots of sleazy characters who liked to prey on tourists. The new king, King Mohammed VI, however, is a cool guy, and he promoted a bunch of renovation and building projects, including a new marina and remodeled port that aims to complete with some of the better known holiday ports along the Mediterranean.
Day tripping Spaniards are a big part of the tourist market, as Tangier is just across the Strait of Gibraltar. Other first time visitors, however, might be in for a rude awakening, as mobs of faux guides and bona fide hustlers greet the arriving ferries and immediately start figuring out how to separate these tourists from their money. I had done my reading, though, and I was prepared.
We left Fez early in the morning and caught the 10:30 train to Tangier. Again, we had a first class ticket, and we had the travel compartment almost entirely to ourselves. Before we knew it, it was 2:55 p.m. and we had arrived in Tangier. The train station is located two miles west of town. We grabbed a cab and were soon at the famous El Minzah Hotel.