Construction workers discovered this morning, February 17, the entrance to a network of underground tunnels in Tangier’s medina — the city’s old district.
Four-meters deep and several-hundred-meters long, the tunnels date back to the 17th century, when Tangier was under Portuguese (1640-1661) and British occupation (1661-1684).
The discovery of the tunnels was random. Construction workers in the medina found the tunnels’ entrance while working on a large renovation project.
Initial explorations have shown that at least three tunnels, approximately 100 meters long and one and a half meters wide each, go from the medina towards the Mediterranean coast of Tangier.
The discovered passageways include several branches that were sealed off with debris. The yet-to-be-unlocked paths could in turn lead to further discoveries in Tangier’s underground tunnel network.
As soon as construction workers reported the discovery, local authorities and the regional department of the Ministry of Culture sealed all entrances to the area, in view of preserving the discovered underground passageways and conducting further archaeological research.
Historians believe that the tunnels were used by the Portuguese and British for security reasons. The underground paths provided the city’s population with easy access to the sea.
British occupiers likely used the tunnels to escape Tangier during its siege, between 1680 and 1684. Moroccan Sultan Moulay Ismail ordered the siege of Tangier as part of his efforts to unify Morocco and end the Christian presence in the country.
The British garrison of 4,000 troops abandoned Tangier in the winter of 1683. The Moroccan army entered the city in February 1684, marking the end of the 213-year-long European occupation of the city.
Today’s archaeological discovery could provide historians with more insight into the history of Tangier during the Portuguese and British occupation.