Raffish Tangier, a short ferry hop from Spain but a world away from Europe, has seduced artists, writers and the glamorous since the 20s - from Henri Matisse to the Beat Poets, Rita Hayworth to the Rolling Stones. Most (though not all: Mark Twain wished to leave after the first day!) have fallen under old Tangier's spell. The medina, the mosques, the alleys, the souks and the sloping sunlit squares, the snake-like music rattling from tiny speakers, the pink sunsets, the endless profferings of sweet mint tea... all add up to an exotic charm. And it is the hilltop Kasbah - palace and administrative quarter since Roman times, and walled off from the medina - where most visitors like to stay.
There are western influences too, particularly as Tangier develops into one of the most important ports in the world. New conference facilities, a pleasure port, a feeling of upmarket resort... Tangier is a city on the move.
Tangier was reclaimed by Morocco in 1956 and, in common with all Moroccan cities, is a heady blend of old and new. It is also an enjoyable antidote to chilly northern winters. Then there are the wild Rif Mountains, a hippy hiker's dream, and Asilah - first stop on the train line down the coast. Not only is Asilah one of the most elegant of the old Portuguese ports, the mood of its lovely ocean-side medina (and that of its salesmen) is far more sotto voce than Tangier's.