Tangier: Guides and Gateways


Cover by Robert McDonald, Tangier: The Golden Gateway (Tangier: Mediterranean American Press, 1952). Collection TALIM Research Library.

The following is a guest post by Emma Chubb, who made a presentation on her subject to a group of American, European, and Moroccan researchers and interested members of the public at TALIM on June 17.  Emma Chubb is a doctoral candidate in art history at Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois USA) and is a 2013-14 American Institute for Maghrib Studies (AIMS) fellow in Morocco.

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Guides and Gateways

I spent much of last fall reading through TALIM’s collection of guidebooks and tourism magazines published between the 1940s and 1970s. Perhaps it was because I too was a newcomer to Tangier, but these guides fascinated me. Some folded out like maps, mixing quirky tips for the European or American traveler to Tangier with black-and-white photographs and brightly colored illustrations.


Tanger, Porte du Maroc [Tanger, Door to Morocco] (Marseille: Syndicat d’initiative et de tourisme de Tanger, nd). Collection TALIM Research Library.

With others, it was the advertisements that drew me in. I was particularly struck by how, in the space of a half-page, they bore such efficient witness to the complexity of colonial Tangier when it was an International Zone.

Take, for example, the advertisement for a shop called Butterfly published in the 1952 American guide, Tangier: The Golden Gateway, in which the United States, France, and the so-called Far East come together in the space of a few inches. While both the shop’s name and ad content appear in English, its rue des Vignes address and accented “e” in the abbreviation “Tél” point to France. Yet despite being in Morocco, shoppers will find nary a babouche here. Instead, this Tangerine store sells “rare objects from the Far East,” including, perhaps, silk kimono-clad, paper parasol-wielding female figurines like the one pictured.


Advertisement in Tangier: The Golden Gateway (Tangier: Mediterranean American Press, 1952). Collection TALIM Research Library.

Not surprisingly, many of the stereotypes and stock characters for which the city remains (in)famous appear throughout these guides. Frequent mentions of beaches, sunshine, modern hotels, and a favorable exchange rate promise various kinds of pleasure, while Moroccan handicrafts and produce sold by Rifi women in bright red-and-white striped foutas and pompom-adorned straw hats lend an “authentic,” “traditional,” and, yes, “exotic” ambiance.


Photograph in Hassan Dehbi, “En parcourant le Rif [Crossing the Rif],” in Maroc tourisme 59 (1970). Collection TALIM Research Library.

These clichés don’t only appear in guides from the colonial period, however, as TALIM’s collection of materials published by the Moroccan Ministry of Information and Tourism, such as Maroc Tourisme, makes clear. With its many examples from both before independence and after, TALIM’s guidebook collection raises important questions about the persistence of colonialist clichés in the postcolonial period.

These questions, like the guidebooks themselves, merit further study, particularly today as Tangier and the North take center stage in Morocco’s efforts to become a top global destination for tourists and in the many new guidebooks that they will undoubtedly bring with them.

Emma Chubb

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