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The Bad Boy of Morocco is Cleaning Up its Act

Like so many establishments in Tangier, Cafe Baba is legendary for its back catalogue of visitors. First came the Beat writers, then the hippie generation and musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger, Santana and Sting. A black-and-white photo on the wall shows the bleary-eyed Rolling Stones lounging here in 1967 with cafe owner Hnifza. Hnifza is still around, but these days it’s his grandson Mohamed who manages the flow of mint tea at Cafe Baba. Crowing over the tip of Africa just 35 miles from Spain, Tangier has always had a reputation for being different. Between 1912 and 1956, the city was an international zone that belonged collectively to Morocco, France, Belgium, Holland, Portugal, England, Italy and Spain. It became a place where artists, misfits, libertarians and dissidents came to lead freewheeling lives, in a stop-gap between the Moroccan French protectorate and the corseted powers of Europe across the Strait of Gibraltar.