Transcultural drinking in the international city of Tangier, 1912-1956

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“Alcohol flows across cultures: Drinking cultures in transnational and comparative perspective”

International Research Symposium, St Anne’s College, Oxford, 29–30 June 2016

[Symposium Podcasts]


“Alcohol for all: Transcultural drinking in the international city of Tangier, c. 1912-1956”


Dr Francisco Martinez, History, University of Evora, Portugal

CIDEHUS (Centro Interdisciplinar de História, Culturas e Sociedades),

Universidade de Évora , Portugal


Since the late nineteenth century, the port city of Tangier, located in the north of Morocco, at the very entrance of the strait of Gibraltar, acquired a notorious reputation for alcohol consumption. Later, its exclusion from the French and Spanish Protectorates established in the country in 1912 further turned the city into a haven for all kinds of dubious businesses, from currency speculation to arm trafficking. Dozens of taverns, pubs, cabarets and Moorish cafés swarmed the city causing great concern among Tangier’s European hygienists and health authorities, largely unable to deal either with the roots of the problem or with its consequences. A major source of concern was actually the largely transnational character of alcohol consumption, which brought together Europeans and Americans with Muslims and Jews in a shared pattern of excess and disease. This pattern challenged discourses of European superiority over Arabs and fueled alarming analysis of racial degeneration and miscegenation.


We will try in this presentation to briefly describe the origins and characteristics of Tangier’s drinking culture and its transformation during the international period (1912-56). What kinds of drinks were consumed? Which regulations were enforced concerning the public sell and consumption of alcohol? What was the importance of smuggling? How did Europeans and Moroccans interact with each other with regard to drinking? How did they influence each other? What differences existed in places and patterns of consumption between the upper and the lower classes? What research was done on alcoholism and what measures were launched by public health authorities?


For analyzing these questions, we will combine the use of archive records, press articles, scientific publications, literature (travel, fiction) and film (fiction, documentary). With regard to the latter, renowned writers such as Paul Bowles, Mohammed Choukri and Ángel Vázquez left detailed descriptions of alcohol consumption in various periods in books such as Bowles’ “Let it come down” (1952). It is also possible to find these representations in fiction films, i.e. “Mission à Tanger” (1949).



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