For the first half of the twentieth century TANGIER was one of the stylish resorts of the Mediterranean – an international city with its own laws and administration, plus an eclectic community of exiles, expatriates and refugees. Tangier was also the world's first and most famous gay resort – favoured by the likes of Tennessee Williams, Joe Orton and Kenneth Williams – a role it maintains to a lesser degree today. The ghosts of these times left a slight air of decay about the city, still tangible in the older hotels and bars. Until recently Tangier's tourism future didn't look too rosy, as it had gained a reputation as somewhere to avoid or, at best, only as a transit point for onward travel.
Tangier's port, recently re-named Tanger-Ville and ranked second only to Casablanca, is central to its economic future. The now constant stream of ferries arriving daily – nearly around the clock during the August holidays – has prompted the construction of another, goods-only port, Tanger Mediterranée, 20km from Ceuta on the Atlantic coast and financed by the private sector, which will eventually leave Tanger-Ville a passenger-only port.
Tangier's interest and attraction lies in the city as a whole: its café life, beach, and the tumbling streets of the Medina. The handful of "monuments", with the notable exception of the Dar el Makhzen palace, are best viewed as adding direction to your wanderings, rather than as unmissable sights.
Finally, despite the clear-out of most of its hustlers, Tangier is still a tricky place for first-time arrivals – hustling and mugging stories here should not be discounted and the characters you run into at the port are as objectionable as any you'll find in Morocco – but once you get the hang of it, Tangier is lively and very likeable, highly individual and with an enduring eccentricity.