Tangier and the Coveting of Europe

        The privileged geographical location of Tangier, just on sea doorway to Europe, in the very converging point of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, apparently, was not safe to this locality. Tangier, in the main gate of the Straits of Gibraltar was considered by many European States as an important strategic location. Tangier made Africa too close to Europe, and all the sailing traffic going through the Straits could be controlled or even hampered from the city.
So this significant geographical situation of the city, eventually, drew incessant trouble on her. The Spanish fleet bombarded it in 1790. A French naval fleet, composed of the gunboats "Suffreu, Jemmape, Argus, Rubis, Triton and Belle-poule” bombed the city in August 11, 1844. The French fleet, commanded by the Prince of Joinville, son of king Louis-Philippe and by the Earl d'Amend, had for mission the forcing of Morocco to pull out of the French-Algerian conflict, and to stop the military assistance given to this country. Mr. Si Larbi Saďdi was, then, the governor of Tangier.

(Bombing of Tangier by the French naval fleet  1844)          

    The International Statute of Tangier

        Tangier was a stronghold that kept a watch, from the African shores, of all the sailing trafic crossing through the Straits of Gibraltar, and Morocco, still and independent country, could have arranged, for his benefit, an allience with any powerful European State to control this passage, but he did not. That is why many European countries were eager to occupy, by force, the city of Tangier. But none dared, for fear of creating more conflicts. A solution had to be found to resolve the status of the menacing Tangier, and it had to be achieved by negotiating with the Sultan of the Kingdom of Morocco. An agreement was reached with the Sultan Moulay Abderrahman Ben Hicham of making of Tangier a Diplomatic City. The treaty endowing the city with the attributes of Diplomatic Capital of Morocco was signed in Tangier in 1856. Madrid’s Conference of 1880 approved the above treaty and made of Tangier a “Zone of Free Trade”. The Algeciras Act of January 16, 1906, signed between Morocco and twelve European Nations, recognized the Moroccan independence, confirmed their support for the principle of free trade and equal economic opportunities with the Sharifian Kingdom and granted Tangier with a special Status. But they also approved the interfering of France and Spain in the country’s affairs.
      When, in 1912, Morocco became a French and Spanish protectorate, the future of Tangier was still a matter of controversy. The Treaty of the Paris Conference, signed the 18th of December, 1923 by France, Spain and England, defined and fixed the outlines of the “Status of the International Zone of Tangier”, and the international control of the 140 square miles of Tangier's territory. The administering powers of this territory were America, Belgium, Britain, France, Holland, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.
       The Sultan, Sovereign of the Sharifian Empire preserved his jurisdiction over the indigene population of Tangier through the Mendoub (Sharifian representative) in the Tangier’s Zone, which was administered by an International Legislative Council composed of 26 members: 6-Moroccan Muslims, 4 Moroccan Jews, 4-Spaniards, 4-French, 4-Italians, 1-Belgian 1-Dutchs, 1-Portugais and 1-American. The Moroccan delegates were selected by the Sharifian Mendoub, the westerns by their respective Consuls.
        According to the “Status”, Tangier was a “Neutral and Tax-free Zone”, where all kind of political and military conflicts were forbidden, and where there was a full economic freedom for everybody. For the next 23 years, Tangier, isolated from the rest of the Moroccan territory, became a boom city, rich and world notorious as Sinville on Sea. Two major initiatives were responsible for putting Tangier on the road to prosperity: the introduction of free trade and the abolition of taxes. New companies were established and foreign capital flooded into the city, which attracted businessmen, but also notorious spies, smugglers, and eminent people of art, such as Jacques Majorelles, Kees Van Dongen, Tennessy Williams. Then Moroccan independence came in 1956, and the big clean up started. The sudden departure of most of Tangier’s foreign investors caused a drastic decline in industrial as well as in commercial and tourist activities in Tangier.

View over the Atlantic bay from the famous moorish Cafe el Hafa in the Marshan quarter

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