Grand Socco, Tangier
The Grand Socco (a French-Spanish hybrid for the Big Square) is the best point of departure for an exploration of the medina and souks. Thanks largely to personal interest from King Mohammed VI, this former market square underwent a makeover in 2005. A large marble fountain is now encircled by park benches and grass areas shaded by large palm trees; it's a popular spot to rest and watch the world go by. Place du 9 Avril 1947 (its little-used official name) refers to a visit to Tangier by the king's grandfather, Sultan Mohammed V, when he aligned himself with the Moroccan independence movement. Head into the medina via the main rue Siaghine (Silversmith's Street), and for a great introduction to Morocco's souks, detour immediately right into the covered market on rue Touahin. At stalls and cavelike shops, travelers can taste and smell fresh fruit and aromatic spices and see and feel bolts of cloth sparkling with sequins or metallic thread. As witness to Tangier's location as a crossroads between Morocco's Riffian north and its Arabic-Berber south, some women wear veils and leave only their henna-dyed hands exposed, while others walk about with their faces bare, showing off the cryptic blue tattoos on their chins, foreheads, and cheeks.
Grand Socco means Big Square or market in Spanish. It also has an official (although rarely used) name of Place du 9 Avril 1947 which relates to the present Kings grandfather (Sultan Mohammed V) and the countries independence.
The Grand Socco is the working market of Tangier. It is oriented toward the citizenry and contains many small shops (or stalls) and larger ones for foodstuffs and other goods. Many natives from the outlying areas (mostly women) in local garb set themselves up on the ground near the shops selling their produce and cheeses. We saw a goodly assortment of the shops and were taken into a spice shop to make purchases.
It is hard to give a sense of direction to ones experiences in Tangier unless you are a native, I guess. We were part of a guided walking tour. In this large cleared area there was a gaarden that was bounded by what seemed to be government buildings. The garden contained an immense banyan tree said to be 800 years old. A wall ran along the edge with arches and gates. Beyond was the morass of the Grand Socco.
Socco means a market in Spanish that is suuq in Arabic language. The Grand Socco is a busy square and good place to watch locals and enjoy (or not) local atmosphere.
It is no longer a market place. I found Grand Socco a busy, noicy meeting place and a transportation junction. There are tenths of taxis around the square with a bit chaotic, typical for Morocco, traffic. The square is a place where the modern city's street were forced to continue in the narrow streets of medina (the old city).
The word ‘socco’ is the Spanish version of ‘souk’, or market, which has stuck to this square in the heart of Tangier because of its Spanish heritage. The Grand Socco is located northeast of the medina. The square is, however, no longer a marketplace, but rather a city crossroads, fronted by cafes, outside the walled in, old part of the city.
The Grand Socco really is the heart of Tangier and a good place to start a tour since it is also the point where the modern city's streets are forced to continue into the narrow streets of the old city. This area was once full of snake charmers, musicians and storytellers while today it is a meeting place and a transportation junction, principally for taxis. It is an interesting spot to spend time watching the passing parade of people including the Rif women in their colorful traditional costume. The rattle and hum of the Grand Socco has entranced all who watched" .. from morning to evening, the vendors, the customers and the plain curious milling around in sun and wind among the hundred colors of canopy and thousand tongues at work..."
It was in this square, on April 9th 1947, that sultan Mohammed V made a famous speech in which he referred to independence for Morocco.
In a place where life styles and house styles mix as much as at the Grand Socco, it only feels natural that the old gate to the old city is flanked by modern Western-style houses.
Also called Place 9 Avril 1947, this is the main gate to the Medina. On the other side of the square regarding the Medina, the Mosque Sidi Bou Abid (1.917).