10 Things You Didn’t Know About Tangier

There’s plenty to discover in the 2,500-year-old city of Tangier, which boasts a smorgasbord of cultural and historical influences due to its location on the Mediterranean in northern Morocco. From its history of spies to its famed authors, here are 10 things you didn’t know about Tangier, Morocco.



Spies loved it

Spies used to find Tangier to feel “right at home.” During the 19th and 20th century, Tangier was a safe ground for international spies and is the location where many spying and smuggling activities happened. This is why you’ll see Tangiers brought up as a location in many spy fiction books and films, such as the popular Bourne series.


Courtesy of Marcelo Noah / Wikimedia Commons

It was home to William S. Burroughs

William S. Burroughs lived in Tangier for 10 years where he wrote Naked Lunch. In those days, opium, among other drugs was easy to acquire and you’ll find much evidence of Burrough’s hallucinogenic side effects in the story.

berber warriors


It was supposedly founded by a Berber warrior

In mythologies, Tangier was founded by a Berber warrior named Sfax who is possibly the son of Hercules. He named the city Tingis after his mother.

charles ii

Courtesy of Thomas Gun / Wikimedia Commons

The city was a gift to King Charles II

Tangier was “awarded’ to English King Charles II as a gift for his marriage to Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza. The Brits “owned” the city until 1689, when Sultan Moulay Ismail and his army attacked the area, taking over the land.

american legation morocco

(John Rambow/Flickr)

It has the first American property outside the United States

Morocco was one of the first countries in the world to recognize the United States as a country. The Tangier American Legation commemorates the relationship between the two countries and is home to an impressive collection of art.

cape spartel

(Aureliano/Wikipedia Commons)

It’s home to the most northwestern point in Africa

Cape Spartel is the most northwestern point in Africa and located just west of the city. The iconic cape is very easy to spot and rises over 300m above the sea.

Hercules Cave Morocco

(Pierre Nordstrom/Wikipedia Commons)

It’s supposedly the final resting place of Hercules

In yet another legend, Tangier is supposed to be the final resting spot of Hercules — Hercules Cave. You can visit this famed and picturesque cave just outside of the city.



It’s been ruled by many peoples

As mentioned, Tangier has an incredibly long history and has been ruled by many peoples. Starting in 500 B.C., Tangier has been populated by Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, the Ummayad Caliphate, Portuguese, Spanish, English, and Moroccans.



If you like tangerines, you can thank Tangier

The sweet and delicious tangerine is named after the city of Tangier. The fruit originated around the area and was subsequently named after it. According to the Oxford English dictionary, people who lived in Tangier were also once called tangerines.

international tangier

Courtesy of Flag / Wikimedia Commons

It was once an international zone

As if enough people hadn’t already occupied the city, between 1923 and 1956, Tangier was declared an international zone administered by France, Spain, Britain and Italy — it even had its own flag. No wonder so many spies hung out there!

Want to discover the finer side of Africa? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Leave a Comment