>>>The Tangier left behind by the Protectorate

The Tangier left behind by the Protectorate

Tangier, northern Morocco, still has spots to remind you that, during the years of the Protectorate, this was a city of splendour, and a refuge for foreigners.
T
he Cecil Hotel, where La Barraca, the theatre company belonging to García Lorca and Margarita Xirgú, enjoyed their Tangier glory days, is now reduced to rubble. Literally dust, a cloud of it flies up after you jump over the wall, in your quest to trace the footsteps of the Spanish playwright: ruins of a building reduced to foundations, façade and rubbish.
You get the exact same feeling upon entering the Cervantes, the theatre where the company performed. In exchange for a few dirhams, some local kids will sneak you in and show you the inside of the historic venue by torchlight. It’s just dust here, too. Broken tiles adorned with fading scenes from Don Quixote, frayed red velvet armchairs and stacked boards. And it’s not alone in its decay; the Alcázar cinema is also in ruins.
Near the Marshan neighbourhood, founded in 1921, Café Hafa is known for its staggered terrace.
Photo: Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com

The Time in Between

The novel ‘The Time in Between’, translated into 25 languages, tells the story of the life of Sira Quiroga, who founded a sewing workshop in Tétouan, capital of the Spanish Protectorate. It is a story of intrigue, spanning Tangier to Lisbon, telling tales of Morocco that win our hearts, because the fiction is imbued with the romanticism of the Protectorate.

This is a journey to a place that no longer exists; a decadent Tangier that reaches you only through association. Driven on by your imagination and a keen sense of nostalgia, as you climb the theatre steps you can imagine the gowns of the ladies attending theatrical performances during the years of the Protectorate. At the time, the world was falling apart—the Second World War followed on from the Spanish Civil War—and international Tangier, protected by a political agreement, was giving refuge to those fleeing a world bent on self-destruction.
While it was home to many Spanish and North American people, it was the French who really reigned, and it was their way of life that permeated the city. The Grand Café de Paris and Café de France are a living legacy of what Tangier used to be. This is why Morocco and Paris share the habit of setting up their chairs facing outwards, as if afraid of missing life.
Avenue Pasteur is one of the main roads in Tangier and home to cafés that are legacy of the French presence.
Photo: g-squared via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Carmina Maceín, the last link

The floors of her house, a home-cum-museum, are by Roselló. The space is in the kasbah and belongs to Carmina Maceín, gallery owner and friend of Pablo Picasso. There are photos of kings on the folding screens, and artworks by Dali, Chilida, Henry Moore, Viola and numerous others.

They were years of long nights and ephemeral dreams. An atmosphere now almost imperceptible to those who go there today in search of legends from the past: Paul Bowles—arrived in 1949 and was never able to leave—Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Francis Bacon, Allen Ginsberg, the list goes on. The poor rich girl, Barbara Hutton, was a popular face during that famous era. Today, those visiting Café Baba can see her portrait hanging on the wall. The then-wife of Cary Grant lived in a palace in the Kasbah, known by all as Sidi Hosni. The echo of those parties still resonates, anchored in old photographs, like the ones you can see at the Lorin Foundation, in the former synagogue.
With nearly 1 million inhabitants, Tangier is the gateway to Morocco, and its connection to Europe.
Rather than being able to see them with you own eyes, you simply get a sense of these remenants when you dust off modern-day Tangier. A trip to Des Colonnes, the colonial bookshop, is just one way of reliving that past. It smells like wood, and makes you feel as if time has halted. Another way of doing it is by taking tea at Café Hafa, even if the place has llost some of its charm since the days when the Rolling Stones would sit on its steps smoking hashish. Nowadays, it is more like a beach bar, where sea views dissolve into the new road. Nearby, the Phoenician tombs are testimony to the contrasts found in Tangier. Luis Delgado, scholar of traditional rhythms from all over the world, describes it through its music: “Tangier has been rushing towards a decadence that is now stretching lazily.” Here is a Tangier that, little by little, is ceasing to exist.

Related articles

Chauen, contemplation blue

In the foothills of the Rif mountains, northern Morocco, this tiny blue town delights travellers with its fabrics, hills and...

African surfing heaven

Beyond exoticism, surfing discovers a new Morocco that is more ‘hippy’ and welcoming to wetsuits. 3,500 kilometres of coastline at...

Le Corbusier, World Heritage architect

O arquiteto acreditava que os edifícios podem tornar as pessoas melhores. Essa fórmula, que o transformou em referência dentro do...

A love poem for Juliet

Five centuries on and Shakespeare’s love story continues to inspire a host of lovers. Discover this romance at number 23...