Tangier and the West
Tangier hosted another important
personality, the Sharif, Moulay Idriss Ibn Abdellah Ibn Al Hassan. This
gentleman fled the slaughter of the Alids who rebelled against the
Abbassid power in Iraq, during the reigning of the khalif Haroun Rachid.
The Sharif, in company of his boon domestic companion Rachid, made his way
to Tangier, through the Algerian city of Tlemecen, in July 786, where he
remained for a while. But Tangier was not a safe place for a person
tracked by a powerful Khalif. Moulay Idriss left the city, in 788, for
Oualili (Volubilis), an inland stronghold of the Aouraba Berber tribe in
the Zerhoun valley.
Tangier became and important bridgehead between al
Andalouss and the Middle East, and was witness, for long centuries, to the
episodes of the important flow of peoples and goods between North Africa
and Europe. In 818 AD, thousands of Corduan Arabs, chased by the Umayyad
Emir, landed as refugees in Tangier. These refugees were chased from al
Andalouss, because of their serious outbreak in the overpopulated "Rabad"
suburb of Cordoba. The consequence was the razing of the Rabad, and the
expelling of more than twenty thousand Rabadis who crossed the Straits of
Gibraltar to Tangier. A number of these Arab Corduan families settled in
Tangier, others left for Fes and other horizons.
Tangier, located at a short distance from Europe, braved most
of the Western military attacks, especially Spanish and Portuguese. During
the 15th century, Morocco became an easy prey to the Portuguese, after the
decay of the Merinid's power in the country. Several cities of the coast
were lost to the Portuguese. The first was the Mediterranean city of
Sebta, occupied in 1415 by Henry the Navigator. The economic motives were
evident, and Lisbon was looking to rival with Venice. The Straits of
Gibraltar on the side of Tangier was an important gate that cuts off the
seaway between the Flander and Italy. Another more important objectif was
reaching the gold of Sudan, which flowed into Morocco, and which arouse
the greed of many an European country. These were enough motives to invade
In 1437, the Portuguese king
Eduardo I, with the blessings of Pope Clement VII, launched an important
crusade fleet against Tangier. The Portuguese venture ended in a disaster.
The Wattasid troops of Abi Zakaria, neutralized and cut to pieces the
Portuguese army, and captured its commander, the Infant Don Ferdinand, who
was sacrificed by his father. king Eduardo I, refused to pay his ransom,
which consisted on the restoring of Sebta to Morocco. The Infant Don
Ferdinand died in captivity in the city of Fes, victim of a blind
Years later, the
Portuguese king, Alphonse V repeated the attempt of capturing Tangier, but
to no avail, his troops did not go further than the beaches of el Kssar
Seghir which they occupied in 1458. But they did not loose hope, and with
much obstinacy, continued watching out for the opportunity, which came
thirteen years later.
Taking advantages of the anarchical unrest which
embraced Morocco, and the fights between the rivaling camps of the
Merinids and the Wattassides, the Portuguese captured Tangier and Assilah,
in 1471, without any significant loss.
After the defeat of the
Portuguese army by the Saadien troops in the Battle of Oued el Makhazin in
1578, and the death of king Don Sebastian in battle, and by virtue of the
royal alliance, the poor kingdom of Portugal lost his crown and all his
colonial possessions to the Spanish king, Philip II in 1581. By this
virtue, Tangier, Sebta and Melilia became provinces to the Spanish
The city of
Tangier was restored to Portugal in 1643 by king Joan IV of Braganza.
However, the Portuguese inhabitants of Tangier were not to enjoy of a
peaceful life in the fortified city. Ceaseless raids were carried on by
the local warriors against the city. The most serious were the ones
carried on under the leadership of El Khadir Ghailan El Gorfti. In 1657,
when the Alaouite Sultan, Sidi Mohammed Ben Sharif, was still
consolidating the country?s foundations, Ghailan, the Moudjahid, besieged
the Portuguese inside Tangier with an important army of about 25 000
warriors. But the city resisted to the incessant assaults and harassment
of Ghailan's troops. The citadel of Tangier was impregnable, and its huge
ramparts added to its protection.
A strategy of approach had to be found, in order to force the Portugueses
out of Tangier, and Ghailan thought on depriving the city of water. The
only water resource of the citadel was the river of Oued Lihoud, whose
water was conveyed to the city through an old Roman aqueduct. Ghailan
destroyed the Roman aqueduct depriving Tangier of this water resource, but
to no avail. The Portuguese had foreseen the water problems, and had
constituted an important reserve of water. Yet, the city was in danger,
and Don Fernando de Mendoza, then Portuguese governor of Tangier,
overwhelmed by the disastrous problems of the city and by the unrest of
its population, called on for a military relief. Lisbon dispatched a fleet
of fourteen galleons to rescue the city, but the privateers of Ghailan
decimated the Portuguese fleet on See.
Don Mendoza was replaced by a new governor, Don Menenez, who saw to
negotiate a truce with Ghailan, to play for time to find a strategy that
may save the City from falling to the Moudjahidin's.
Portugal was a
small kingdom, and an easy appetizing prey, for which a number of European
States, including the neighboring Spain, were rivaling. The safety of this
kingdom was in allying to England. This alliance was arranged, together,
by the British admiral Edward Montagu, First Earl of Sandwich and the
Portuguese Marquise of Sande, Don Francisco de Mello, ambassador of
Portugal in London. The alliance was reached through the arrangement of
the marriage of the princess Catalina de Braganza with the British king,
Charles II. What role did the city of Tangier play in this arrangement?
Well, by virtue of this marriage, Portugal gave up Tangier and Bombay to
England, and received in exchange the colonies of
A Canvas of the View of Tangier 16th century
Designed and managed by El
Bokhari Abdelouahed Email:[email protected]