The Magnificent Museums of Tangier

The vibrant coastal city of Tangier is located near the spot where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean at the western entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. Due to its strategic position, Tangier has a complex history and has been influenced by a multitude of civilizations and cultures from the time that the first people settled there in the 5th century BC. Between the 1920s and 1950s, the city was given international status and attracted famous artists, writers, business people and politicians, who all added to the city’s history and culture. While Tangier is currently undergoing a period of intense economic development, the museums of the city offer visitors a glimpse of its fascinating history and colorful intricate culture and heritage.

Located in the Medina of Tangier, the American Legation Museum details the history of interactions between Morocco and the United States. The building was presented to the United States of America in 1821 by Sultan Moulay Suliman, the Sultan of Morocco between 1792 and 1822. The gift reinforced the 1786 Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship, signed by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Muhammad III, which remains in force to this day. Morocco became the first country in the world to officially and publicly recognize the newly independent United States of America. The building remained the location of the United States Legation and Consulate for 140 years and served as the headquarters for United States military agents during World War II. Upon Morocco’s independence in 1956, the building no longer served as a diplomatic post, but was used by the United States government for other purposes before being abandoned. A group of American citizens formed a non-profit organization in 1976 with the purpose of saving and restoring the American Legation. Today it houses the Tangier American Institute for Moroccan Studies dedicated to the study of Morocco and Moroccan-American relations. It also serves as a museum, with paintings by American-born artist Marguerite McBey who made Morocco her home. The building also includes a wing dedicated to the works of writer and composer Paul Bowles, as well as a research library and conference center.

Other museums located in Tangier include the Forbes Museum with its impressive collection of lead soldiers arranged to re-enact major battles in history, as well as the Museum of Moroccan Arts, and the Museum of Antiquities.