My Semester in Morocco: Exploring Tangier

The following journal is from TMN reporter Daniel Saenz, as he documents his semester studying abroad in Morocco.

BY DANIEL SAENZ

Tangier is not just any ordinary city. Situated in the northern region of Morocco, and on the border with Spain, Tangier carries a unique geographic and historic standing in the world today. Situated on the coast towards the Strait of the Islands of Gibraltar, visitors can see the exact point at which the Mediterranean sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet. A wide variety of cultures have left their mark on this territory, which includes the ancient Greeks, the Spanish, the French, and the United States.

Tangier was founded in the 5th century B.C. by settlers from Carthage, or what is known today as the modern country of Tunisia. Soon after, the ancient Greeks took over the territory and promptly added it to its well-established repertoire of mythology. Tangier, according to the Greeks, was where Hercules slept in a cave before partaking in his famous 12 labors. The Greeks actually picked a cave and called it the official resting place of Hercules, which is a popular tourist destination to this day.

Centuries later, the United States under George Washington established its first-ever consulate in the city of Tangier as a gesture of goodwill because Morocco was the first country to recognize the United States as a country. After years of rivalry between the European colonial powers, France and Spain eventually split ownership of Morocco in 1912, with Spain controlling the far north and south and France controlling all the rest. George Orwell actually visited Tangier with his wife and wrote about all of these cultures at play in the city. After describing the ready availability of newspapers that were diverse in both language and political affiliation, he wrote, “There are four post offices, one French, one British, and two Spanish–Franco and government. Stamps are British supercharged Tangier. Coinage as in French Morocco.”

It was the weekend after my trip to Fez that I experienced all of these dynamics at play first-hand. I spent most of my time hiking and marveling at the wondrous sights that the landscape had to offer. I was able to stand on beautiful cliffs overlooking the ocean. When exploring the beaches, I caught a clear view of the Spanish peninsula and I could feel all of the cultures mixing and mingling here as well. Everyone around me spoke either French, Spanish, English, or Arabic. Witnessing all of this made me feel like I was truly a part of the natural course of history.

Most importantly, I also explored Hercules’ cave. Seeing the landscape that wound up being central to Greek mythology was pleasing as both a literature and history nerd such as myself. Overall, it was an excellent experience and I would highly recommend that everyone visit this marvelous city at least once in their lives.

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