Tangier - Encyclopedia

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TANGIER (locally Tanjah), a seaport of Morocco, on the Straits of Gibraltar, about 14 m. E. of Cape Spartel, nestles between two eminences at the N.W. extremity of a spacious bay. The town, which has a population of about 40,000, presents a picturesque appearance from the sea, rising gradually in the form of an amphitheatre, with the citadel, the remainder of the English mole and York Castle to the right: in the central valley is the commercial quarter, while to the left along the beach runs the track to Tetuan. Though rivalry between European Powers led to many public works being delayed, through the action of the public Sanitary Association the streets, which are narrow and crooked, have been re-paved as well as cleaned and partially lighted, and several new roads have been made outside the town. In some of the older streets European shops have replaced the picturesque native cupboards; drinking dens have sprung up at many of the corners, while telephones and electric light have been introduced by private companies, and European machinery is used in many of the corn-mills, &c. The main thoroughfare leads from Bab el Marsa (Gate of the Port) to the Bab el Sok (Gate of the Market-place) known to the English as Port Catherine. The sok presents a lively spectacle, especially upon Thursdays and Sundays.

Tangier is almost destitute of manufactures, and while the trade, about £750,000 a year, is considerable for Morocco, it is confined chiefly to imports, about two-fifths of which come from Great Britain and Gibraltar, and one quarter from France. The exports are chiefly oxen, meat, fowls and eggs for Gibraltar and sometimes for Spain, with occasional shipments of slippers and blankets to Egypt. Most of the trade, both wholesale and retail, is in the hands of the Jews (see further Morocco).

The harbour formed by the Bay of Tangier is an extensive one, the best Morocco possesses, and good in all weathers except during a strong east wind, but vessels of any size have to anchor a mile or so out as the shore to the west is shallow and sandy, and to the east, rocky and shingly. Since 1907 a basin with an outer and inner mole has been built. It. does not, however, accommodate large vessels. The climate is temperate and healthy, and good for consumptives.

As the seaport nearest to Europe, Tangier is the town in the empire in which the effects of progress are most marked, and since the end of the 18th century it has been the diplomatic headquarters. The nucleus of a cosmopolitan society thus formed has expanded into a powerful community enjoying privileges and immunities unknown to natives not receiving its protection. The steadily increasing number of visitors has induced the opening of first-class hotels, and necessitated extensive building operations, resulting in the immigration of some thousands of artisans, chiefly Spanish. The number of European inhabitants (1905) was about 9000 (7500 Spaniards); of Jews about 10,000.

The Roman Tingis, which stood in the immediate vicinity of the site of Tangier, was of great antiquity; under Augustus it became a free city, and when Otho placed the western half of Mauretania under a procurator, he called it Mauretania Tingitana after its capital Tingis. It was held by Vandals, Byzantines and Arabs, and when Mulai Idris passed from Tlemcen to Fez in 788, Tangier was "the oldest and most beautiful city" of the Maghrib. After many futile attempts the Portuguese obtained possession of it in 1471, but it passed to Spain in 1580, returning again to the Portuguese in 1656. In 1662 as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza on her marriage to Charles II., it came into the possession of the English, and they defended it against Mulai Ismail in 1680, but in 1684 it was decided, on account of expense, to abandon the place to the Moors. El Ufrani writes that "it was besieged so closely that the Christians had to flee on their vessels and escape by sea, leaving the place ruined from bottom to top." It was bombarded in 1844 by the French, then at war with Morocco. In the early years of the 20th century the sharif Raisuli terrorized the district round Tangier and made captive several Europeans. As one result of the Algeciras conference of 1906 a regular police force was organized, and the control of the customs passed into European hands (see Morocco: § History). See A. Cousin, Tanger (Paris, 1902); Archives Marocaines (Paris, 1904-6).

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