By Hajar Slaoui
Tangier – Morocco is the first country to recognize the United States, in December 1777. Through his representative in Tangier, the Sultan of Morocco informed a number of countries “including the Americans” that they were allowed to enter Moroccan ports without payment of duties or tariff.
This constituted de facto recognition of the United States, George Washington established the first diplomatic mission to Morocco in December 1797 when an American Consulate was established in Tangier with the hope of ensuring the safe passage of American shipping into the Mediterranean.
In 1821, the Moroccan ruler, Sultan Moulay Suleiman, gave the United States, a building in the old medina of Tangier, and gave the United States its first diplomatic property, the site of the American Legation. Reconstruction began in 1848, when the new US Consul arrived to find the building “almost in ruins,” possibly as a result of the French bombardment of Tangier in 1844.
Today, the American Legation, which is still owned by the United States, is engaged in an active and expanding social outreach program working in partnership with a Moroccan NGO: (la Fondation Tanger Al Madina) headquartered at the Museum. Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies (TALIM’s) and the Moroccan foundation are dedicated to improving the lives and environment of Moroccans living in the old city. For the past eight years, TALIM’s has hosted literacy classes for neighborhood women and offered a lecture series on such issues as public health, family rights legislation, and communication.
TALIM’s also offers sewing and English lessons and activities for neighborhood youth. For several years, TALIM’s hosted a Rotary Club micro-credit program that disbursed nearly 500 loans to medina women interested in starting their own business. Through a grant from the American Ambassador’s Cultural Preservation Fund, a historic square in the medina was renovated by the Tangier medina foundation.
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