Rachel Shafer is a student at University of North Texas and is an ISA Guest Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Meknes, Morocco.
Tangier, located on northern coast of Morocco, braces the Atlantic and Mediterranean, directly across from the Strait of Gibraltar. Because of its location at the tip of the continent and at the mouth of the Mediterranean, it has played an important role in the history of Morocco and the region as a whole, and has been conquered and colonized repeatedly throughout its history. Not only is it a great spot for a vacation given its proximity to the beach, it features prominent historical and cultural landmarks.
Tangier’s history began as a possession of the indigenous people of Morocco, the Amazigh, though they did not settle the coastal areas that are modern Tangier until it was conquered by Carthaginians in 500 BC. The city figures prominently in Greek mythology, as the Caves of Hercules just outside the city are said to have been a napping spot for Hercules. Today, the caves are easily visited by tourists, and when the tide is high, young men can be seen diving into the tumultuous waves below. Adjacent to the caves are tidal pools with hosts of flora and fauna that provide a peaceful spot to watch the tides crash against the rocks.
Tangier passed through the hands of the Vandals, the Byzantines, the Umayyads, the Portuguese, the English, the Moroccans, and the Spanish. In 1923, it became an international zone, divided between the French and Spanish, and then was restored to Morocco in 1952 and entered independence with it in 1956.
But what was my favorite part of Tangier? As with every other place I visited in Morocco, it was the people, and the unique cultural interactions with the inhabitants. One specific night stands out in my memory. The second time I visited Tangier, I had been in Morocco for almost a month, and I had been eating traditional foods with my host family and was craving European food. I located an Italian restaurant and went out to dinner with the friends with whom I was travelling. The restaurant was exactly what we needed. When paying for our meal we got to chatting with the proprietor, a Tangier native whose family hails from Italy. By coincidence, one of my travel companions had met her cousin on the train from Meknes and she showed us childhood pictures of the two of them and gave us tips on what is best to do in Tangier. While our chatting delayed us a bit, the last group left in the restaurant began singing happy birthday, as they were celebrating the 15th birthday of one among them. They sang in English, so we joined in, and then they continued to sing it three more times, in French, Spanish, and Arabic respectively. After they noticed we had sung along, they invited us to share a piece of cake (it was really good) and asked us more about ourselves and our studies. Not only did this highlight the wonderful hospitality and warmth of so many here in Morocco, but the amazing linguistic diversity (and talent!).
Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.