Tangier: from the Romans to the Rolling Stones

By Richard Hamilton

Tauris Parke Bloomsbury publishers, London. Price £20 for hardback.

This is a delightful book on Tangier with amusing anecdotes.

Richard Hamilton’s book takes us on a fascinating journey through this city’s cultural, social and political history. His work is not only entertaining and instructive but also funny and very informative.

Richard has managed to make a well-researched work into an easy, interesting and informative read.

The Moroccan city of Tangier has had a very colourful past and a thriving British community which unfortunately is fading away. However, their footprints are still there wherever you go and being kept alive by some new writers and artists as well as regular British visitors.

Richard’s description of Tangier is very accurate and its Medina (old town), sea views and landscape have inspired many famous writers including Paul Bowles, the modern American Hemingway, French artists like Henri Matisse and Eugene Delacroix and British musicians like the Rolling Stones not to mention celebrities like the world famous late French designer Yves Saint Laurent and the British antique dealer Christopher Gibbs among others.

The author also provides a historical brief on the past linked to the present of this fascinating city that has been transformed recently by Morocco’s King Mohamed VI redesigning its coast that now links the Atlantic Ocean with the Mediterranean while keeping the old town intact due to its historical significance and quirky character.

Ibn Batuta, the world famous traveller and explorer who was born in Tangier, is referred to in the book as well as his worldwide travels and experiences. His expeditions took him further than any other known traveller of his time and resulted in the work which has made him famous, The Rihla of Ibn Batuta.

Over centuries, Tangier had constituted the battleground for different warring races and nationalities. Indeed, the history of the city stretches back to the Greeks and lapses into myth while briefly occupied by the Portuguese who offered it to the British monarch King Charles I as part of the dowry when he married the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza (1638-1705) and the city remained occupied under the Kingdom of England from 1661 to 1684.

Richard’s account of Walter Harris and his role at a crucial time of Morocco’s history is very insightful and interesting.

He also managed to put enough in his book to attract readers keen to know more about this mysterious, sometimes notorious (during foreign occupation) and fascinating city of many facets. Only 11 kilometres separate Tangier from Europe through the Strait of Gibraltar and the European influence is there for everybody to see as the city has been a crossroad of many Mediterranean civilisations.

This book is an essential read for anyone interested in knowing the past and present of this enchanting city of many colours and multiple facets.

Ali Bahaijoub

 

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