Joe Orton in Tangier | Culture 24 | 14391
Readers of the Joe Orton diaries will know of Joe’s holiday with his partner Kenneth Halliwell in the Mediterranean port of Tangier during the 1966-67 period.
For the first half of the twentieth century, Tangier was an international zone. Morocco was ruled by France and Spain, but Tangier was governed by an international coalition. It was a free port on the Mediterranean Sea under a libertarian administration with loose tax regulations which attracted banks and companies there in the early 1950’s.
It became a refuge for gay men wishing to escape repression back home. It was home at various times to William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and other famous 1950’s celebrities. Tangier was the world’s first and foremost gay centre with more openly gay bars per person than anywhere else in Europe or the United States.
Within the rest of Morocco, Tangier became something of a byword for decadence and corruption. First to go after Independence in 1956 was Tangier’s special status. Almost overnight the big businesses fled to Spain and Switzerland. The new Government imposed bureaucratic controls and instituted a clean up of the city closing all the gay bars. In well publicised trials in the 1960s several foreigners were arrested and departed from Morocco for sexual offences.