Always of huge strategic importance at the entrance to the Mediterranean, Tangier is the enthralling gateway to Africa, a tantalising introduction to a culture vastly different from that across the Strait of Gibraltar.
With the arrival of the new monarch in 1999 and his forward-thinking ideas about commerce and tourism, suddenly the community woke up to the potential of this great city. There’s a spanking new port of enormous proportions, a new business district and a revamped airport. Buildings have been renovated, beaches cleaned up, hustlers chivvied off the streets, there’s an explosion of cultural activities and now some great places to stay and excellent restaurants.
Tangier is divided into an old walled city, or medina, a nest of medieval alleyways, and a new, modern city, the ville nouvelle. The medina contains a kasbah, the walled fortress of the sultan, which forms its western corner; the Petit Socco (also known as Socco Chico and Souq Dakhel), an historic plaza in the centre; and of course, the souqs, or markets. The much more impressive Grand Socco (officially renamed Pl du 9 Avril 1947), a pleasant square with a central fountain, is the hinge between the two sides of town, and the postcard entrance to the medina.
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