Sprawling westwards and southwards from the ancient Medina is the European-built Ville Nouvelle. Much of its architecture and layout, especially immediately outside the Medina, is of Spanish origin, reflecting the influence of the city’s large Spanish population during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The Grand Socco is the obvious place to start a ramble around the town. Its name, like so many in Tangier, is a French–Spanish hybrid, proclaiming its origins as the main market square. The markets have since long gone, but the square remains a meeting place and its cafés make good spots to soak up the city’s life. The Grand Socco’s official but little-used name, Place du 9 Avril 1947, commemorates the visit of Sultan Mohammed V to the city on that date – an occasion when, for the first time and at some personal risk, he identified himself with the struggle for Moroccan independence.
A memorial to this event (in Arabic) is to be found amid the Mendoubia gardens, flanking the square, which enclose the former offices of the Mendoub – the sultan’s representative during the international years – and now home to the local Chamber of Commerce. Here there’s also a spectacular banyan tree, said to be over 800 years old. Essentially now an open grassed area, the gardens are popular with local families who enjoy the small playground.