Mohamed El Mansour argues that the
Roman name for the city, Tingis, has Amazigh (Berber) origins, and that
it is likely that the area was settled well before the Phoenicians and
Carthaginian settlements, though many histories of the city start there.
The Umayyad conquest in 707/88 AH brought Islam and 700 years of Arab
rule to city until the Portuguese conquered in 1471/871 AH. The walled
city city that was Tangier dates to Portuguese rule and after. Nothing
remains of the earlier settlements. The city didn't expand
substantially outside the walls until well into the modern era.
For roughly the next 213 years
sovereignty over Tangier would be determined by European affairs. When
Portugal itself came under the sovereignty of the Hapsburgs of Spain in
1580/988 AH, so too did Tangier, at least nominally. Spanish
sovereignty lasted roughly 60 years before the city was once again under
Portuguese rule. Portugal ceded Tangier to the British in 1661/1071
AH as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza. The British departed
in 1684, destroying most of the town in the process. The Qasba, the administrative center, occupies the highest point of the city, and the Medina descends downward to the Port on the Bay of Tangier to the east of the city.
After the British departure, Pasha Ali
Ben Abdallah a-Riffi (1684-1713/1095-1125 AH) occupied the city and saw
to it's restoration. Though it had only about 5,000 inhabitants, in the
early 19th century it was established it as the primary diplomatic and
foreign trade center between the Morocco and foreign powers. Most
foreign powers had their diplomatic representations in the Mellah, the
Jewish section of the Medina, until they moved outside the city walls
when the city came under Spanish control through the Treaty of
Algeciras. The terms of the treaty placed Northern Morocco under the
Spanish authority and the rest of the country under the French. The
Treaty of Fez in 1911 made the Northern Morocco, including Tangier, a
formal Protectorate. In addition to moving their diplomatic
representations out of the Medina into large new buildings, they also
build schools, churches, hospitals, and other facilities.
the First World War, to settle disputes over control over this
strategically located city on the Straits of Gibraltar, an international
convention signed in Paris on December 18, 1923 made Tangier a neutral
demilitarized zone under joint administration of France, Spain and
Britain. Subsequent agreements between 1923 and 1929 brought Italy,
Belgium, Portugal, and the Netherlands into the convention. Immigration
from Spain increased considerably during the Spanish Civil War, and the
city became a center for intrigue and espionage during the World War II.
Spanish troops occupied Tangier when Paris fell to the Germans, and
remained until the end of the war. The city remained international zone
until after Morocco gained its independence and the city was
reincorporated into the nation.
The city is expanding rapidly, moving many industrial and commercial
activities away from the center of town. For several decades through
the 1990s much of the construction related to this expansion was
haphazard and inadequately regulated. Recently the city has seen a
significant transformation. Monuments have been restored, public
cemeteries cleaned up, high walls around open spaces removed, parks
developed, and the transportation infrastructure is being upgraded. Tangier is in an active seismic zone, and
constantly buffeted by winds and the unpredictable weather of the
Straits of Gibraltar. The soil under the city has taken it toll on some
of the important historic structures, most notably the north wall of
the Qasba, including the the Donjon of Ali al-Riffi and Bab al-Bahar
recent decades a considerable increase in investments from the central
government and the private sector have led to many changes, particularly
in transportation and tourism. As M puts it, "Tangier had been
reinventing itself since the late 1990s as the northern gateway to
Morocco and even to West Africa, and as a vigorously promoted venue for
the tourist and conference industries."1 In 2007
construction began on Tanger Med, a major new commercial port outside of
town to route commercial shipping away from the port on the bay at the
base of the Medina, and the relocation of the city's main train station
so that the tracks no longer run along the beach front. The port in the
city is being upgraded and transformed so that fishing boat, ferries and
cruises from Europe, and yachts or leisure boats are in separate areas.
There are also plans to build a 27.7 km tunnel from Punta Paloma in
Spain to Cape Malabata.
1. Elbl, p. 23.
--Michael A. Toler, Archnet Content Manager, AKDC@MIT, January 2015
American Legation, Tangier Morocco: Historic Structure Report, II-1-4. Washington, DC: United States Department of State, Overseas Building Operations, 2010.
Boujibar, Naïma El-Khatib. "The Ports on the Strait" 192-202 in Mazzīn, Muḥammad, and Imḥammad Bin ʻAbbūd. Andalusian Morocco: Discovery in Living Art. [S.l.]: Museum With No Frontiers, 2001.