I love Morocco. It is a country I’ve visited often since the early 1980s, and just last summer I went to the wedding of a good friend in Marrakesh.
Most of my time has been spent in the south, though I also frequented Rabat, Fez and Asilah. The one city I had not seen since 1996 was Tangier. Back then, it seemed too crowded and desolate, lurching from a still vivid colonial past into an uncertain modern feature. The Grand Hotel Villa de France and the nearby American Legation Building stood out as solitary reminders of better days.
That sombre view changed for me in one rapid, recent visit to Tangier. I came at the invitation of my friend Anouar Majid. He invited me to talk at the Tangier Global Forum, held at the new University of New England’s campus in Tangier. It is a spectacular gem-like set of buildings cropped on the hillside of the American School of Tangier. Anouar has managed to craft an American style university, with science labs and offerings, as well as a strong humanities curriculum. Since 2014 he has enticed UNE students to study abroad in this distinctive setting, and lucky are those who have had the good fortune to come to Tangier and to UNE Tangier.
My own stay was too brief. I came the day before I delivered a lecture, on my current book, The Koran in English: A Biography, and then had to leave the next day to go back to Turkey, where I am now teaching. I left with a sense of wonder and delight at the Tangier of 2018. It is a city marked by extensive rebuilding, with new residential developments, commercial centers and upscale restaurants. But best of all it has as its newest educational port the overseas campus of UNE Tangier. I hope to return there for a longer stay on my next visit, and to benefit yet again from my decades-long friendship with Anouar Majid.