The city is set to lift the yashmak on a host of wicked western attractions
Bikinis could soon outnumber burqas in Tangier as the white city reinvents itself as a hip beach resort with decadent waterfront dining and aperitifs on the prom.
Cocktails and Casablanca beer– for now only to be had in hotels and furtive bars – will be coming out into the open at Tanja Marina Bay.
Tangier is King Mohammed VI’s second home and as he owns a yacht or two himself, the new international leisure port promises to be spectacular when finished. Yacht moorings are already on sale and the first phase – including one or two cafes by the looks of it although in May 2018 you couldn’t go in – is awaiting royal inauguration.
You’ll have to come back in the next year or so for the leafy squares, shopping malls and entertainment centre; and after 2020 to ride the promised 90-cabin cable car which will zoom you directly from the ferry terminal to the top of the medina, saving the uphill schlep.
Check out the slideshow for a glimpse of how the port will look when it’s finished, elevating Tangier to one of the top marinas and cruise destinations in the Med.
Park with a Sean Connery Connection
Another exciting piece of news is the opening of stunning Perdicaris Park, a lush pine-forested estate rolling down cliffs to the ocean.
Still a local secret yet only a 15-minute taxi ride from the port, it’s been spruced up with walking trails, picnic tables, a cafe and at least one free-wheeling fresh orange juice salesman complete with mobile juicer.
There’s a fascinating story behind the mansion hidden in the trees, built by billionaire Greek-American playboy Ion Perdicaris as a love nest for his young wife. In 1904, he and his stepson were victims of a kidnapping that saw President Roosevelt stationing warships off the Moroccan coast and the local Sultan coughing up the $70,000 ransom.
Their captor was a dashing Tetuan tribesman called Raisuli, played by Sean Connery in The Wind and the Lion (1970). Nightingale Place, where the drama played out, is being turned into a museum. The real story is better than the Hollywood version.
Also stand by for Africa’s Fastest Train!
Tangier to Casablanca in the blink of an eye
The Moroccan TGV is on track for her maiden voyage from Tangier to Casablanca this year. The new high speed line will slash journey times between the two cities from FIVE HOURS to just over TWO.
The 215-mile fast-track route from Tangier’s smart new station is only the start. Further high speed lines over the next decade will open up central Morocco to visitors from Europe: imagine Tangier to Marrakech in two hours 45 minutes instead of the current 11 hours!
The Sahara desert, Game of Thrones location Essaouira and exotic Ouarzazate, home to the world’s largest film studios (Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator) will be an awfully lot closer.
A Royal Renaissance
The closure of the mythical El Minzah Hotel shows the great changes afoot in Tangier. The sister to Gibraltar’s Rock Hotel, opened by the Marquess of Bute during the Roaring Twenties, is having a major nip-tuck to restore her lost youth. Booking websites simply say ‘dates not available’ but now you’re in the know. Watch this space for news of the re-opening.
Everywhere, there are signs of progress. The citadel walls have been scrubbed clean, a towering new mosque stands at the port entrance beside a network of wide roads and grassy roundabouts and you’ll count more dudes in surf shorts than djellabas crossing them this summer. There’s even a Tangerine McDonalds, Allah forbid!
The 23rd monarch of a dynasty that has ruled, on and off, for 400 years is bringing Morocco kicking and screaming into the 21st century. The king has broken with traditions like the four wife rule (now down to one), introduced his own wife to the public (a first), and a new system of divorce. Husbands can no longer turn wives out onto the streets with a thrice-repeated “I divorce you”. These days, the missus gets the house.
Most expats do Tangier in a whistle-stop day trip from Tarifa for the buzz of haggling for camel leather handbags in the spice-scented souks. Thanks to Morocco’s modern monarch, there’ll soon be reasons to linger a lot longer.