A LONDONER IN TANGIER: THE AMERICAN LEGATION



 

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One of the recommendations A-Gent of Style was given before his trip to Tangier last month was to visit The American Legation, the first American public property outside of the United States. And he is glad he made it as it has become not only one of the most historic places to visit in Tangier but also an enticing cluster of elegant houses nestled around a charming, lush courtyard, all of which bursting with Moorish decorative marvels, refined decor of European and Federalist sensitivity, and a notable collection of paintings.

Located within the fortified city’s labyrinthine Medina, the American Legation is an elegant and elaborate five-storied building with its original two-story mud, stoned and white stuccoed masonry designed in the Moorish-style. It commemorates the historic cultural and diplomatic relations between the United States and the Kingdom of Morocco as Morocco was the first country to recognize the United States, in December 1777.

 President George Washington established the first diplomatic mission to Morocco in December 1797 when an American Consulate was established in Tangier with the hope of ensuring the safe passage of American shipping into the Mediterranean. In 1821, the Moroccan ruler, Sid Suleiman, gave the United States, a building in the old medina of Tangier, now the American Legation. It is now officially called the Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies, and is a cultural centre, museum, and a research library, concentrating on Arabic language studies.


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The Legation housed the United States Legation and Consulate for 140 years, the longest period any building abroad has been occupied as a United States diplomatic post. It is symbolic of the 1786 Moroccan–American Treaty of Friendship, which is still in force today. The complex expanded over the years as the surrounding houses were bought up. During World War II, it served as headquarters for United States intelligence agents. In 1976 a group of American citizens established a public, non-profit organization to save the Old American Legation (as it is known locally). Today, the Tangier American Legation Museum Society rents the structure, which is still owned by the United States Government. You can read a brief history here from the official website.

The American Legation boasts many paintings by Marguerite McBey (her husband James McBey’s painting Zohra is quite tantalising – it is known as the Moroccan Mona Lisa as the sitter’s eyes can follow you from whatever angle you gaze at the portrait) and other artists, and also includes an entire wing devoted to the most notorious expatriate of Tangier, writer and composer Paul Bowles, thanks to many private donations of books, furnishings, recordings, photographs and other memorabilia (letters, music scores).

An altogether fascinating world A-Gent of Style was delighted to delve into.
As will you!



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– Photos by A-Gent of Style – 







One comment


  • Rached Mneimné

    Very nice photos

    March 17, 2015

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