This fascinating museum is a treasure trove of both Tangier and Moroccan history. In 1786, just 3 years after the United States gained its independence from the British, Thomas Jefferson and Sultan Mohammad III signed the Morocco-U.S. Treaty of Friendship. This was the first recognition of the United States by any nation and is the longest unbroken treaty in U.S. history. In 1821, Sultan Moulay Slimane presented the original two-story building as a gift to the United States, and it proceeded to house the U.S. Embassy until Moroccan independence in 1956, when all embassies moved to Rabat. The building then continued as the U.S. consulate for another 5 years, before a new one was built outside the medina. It was the first building outside the United States to be registered under the National Historic Landmarks program.
The property has been extended over the years and now sits astride rue d'Amerique, connected by a covered walkway; it still contains the original building. Various rooms house exhibits on the history of Tangier, much of it as seen through a Westerner's eyes. The museum's diverse collection of 17th- to 20th-century art includes works by Scottish engraver and painter James McBey and more recent works by resident American artists. A portrait of former American Ambassador to Morocco, Joseph Verner Reed, by renowned painter William F. Draper hangs in the atrium of the museum's extensive research library. "The Final Portrait of Paul Bowles," by James Krone, is one of the more recent additions and is located in a room dedicated to the late-resident American author. A small selection of literature and paraphernalia is for sale, including a copy of the first correspondence, in 1789, between George Washington and his "Great and Magnanimous Friend, the Emperor of Morocco," Sultan Moulay Ben Abdallah.
English-speaking guides are on hand to provide a free tour of the museum. The museum's entrance is always locked due to heightened security at U.S. landmarks worldwide; just ring the bell.
- © Frommer's 2013