The closest major African city to Europe, Tangier was once known as the Pearl of the Mediterranean. Sadly, its reputation today is lackluster, to say the least. It has more than its share of pestering touts and crowded, run-down streets. It's not nearly as interesting as Fez or Marrakech, but it still has the anything-goes aura that, over the years, has attracted such writers as Paul and Jane Bowles, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Tennessee Williams, artists Delacroix and Matisse, and guitarist Davy Graham.

Once you escape the busy port area, it's easier to appreciate Tangier's nice setting: hills flanking a broad bay with a long stretch of beach. Neither the new nor the old section of the city has an abundance of standout sights or monuments, but no doubt something will spark your interest while walking around them. The Museum of Moroccan Arts and Antiquities in the casbah section of the medina is your reward for climbing the hill.

Technically, it's possible to see Tangier as a day trip from Spain, but keep in mind that it's not representative of all of Morocco. A visit to Tangier is not a fair experience of the entire country, and even if the crowds and petty crime get to visitors, they should consider returning to Marrakech or Casablanca another time.

The one- and two-day package tours of the city offered by a number of companies in Spain are worthwhile for people who have little or no experience traveling in developing countries—it's easy to get lost in the maze of streets on your own. (The crowded streets in the old part of the city can get particularly claustrophobic if you've lost your way.) Day trips from Tangier can be made to the towns of Chefchaouen, Tetouan or Asilah. Tangier is 150 mi/240 km north of Rabat.

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