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Sex, drugs, rock and roll: Pick your poison. Tangier used to be a place to freely engage in the hedonistic pleasures of your choice — all while not breaking the law or your budget. In the ’40s and ’50s, the coastal city became the light to which dozens of Western creatives (beat writers like William Burroughs, rock musicians like The Rolling Stones, and fashion designers like Yves Saint Laurent) flocked. As an international zone, Tangier lacked the rules and regulations that were constraining many artistic minds in the U.S., Europe, and Australia at the time. So, it attracted a colorful community.
Fast-forward 60 years, and some of those expats are still there. The reality they’ve created for themselves is not quite Moroccan, not quite Western; rather, it’s an amalgamation of everything they love — which is about as indulgent as it gets. Tangier’s combination of bright hues and fabrics, traditional patterns and craftsmanship, and international cultural influences makes it a tempting haven for people who want to reinvent themselves. Of course, that process of transformation raises questions about cultural appropriation versus appreciation (for example, many expats used to cut up sacred Moroccan textiles to use as guitar straps). Some of the outdated terminology and specious perceptions still prevalent at this cultural crossroads may well be at odds with many expats’ self-proclaimed free-thinking. But, in Morocco, the fact remains: This magpie sensibility — or, on the flip side of the coin, exploitation — is easy to pursue. Watch as our host, Asha Leo, travels to Tangier to meet with the expats who’ve created a colorful, pastiched life on the tenets of experimentation, indulgence, and freedom.
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