The story of the Tangier American Legation, the first American public property outside of the United States and designated National Historic Landmark:
Eighty-six-year-old Aicha El Kharz has lived in Tangier’s madinah for most of her life. Her surprisingly youthful eyes peer over reading glasses as she tells you that she used to work in the neighborhood as a cleaning woman. She did so without being the least aware of the political and social significance of a certain building on the Rue d’Amerique, a building she now walks to twice a week with the aid of her cane.
That Mark Twain, Paul Bowles, Malcolm Forbes and many other American diplomats, artists and businessmen preceded her in walking the halls and rooms of this building means little to El Kharz. Nor does it matter to her that this is the only us National Historic Landmark building outside America. The Tangier American Legation, as the building was long known, is where El Kharz and hundreds of other women in the madinah (the walled and fortified heart of the city since the 14th century) are learning to read. “I want to be able to read the Qur’an,” El Kharz says, catching her breath as she works on basic Arabic sentences amid a class of 25 women with dreams of where literacy can take them.
Today the building is called the Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies, or talim, an acronym that doubles as the Arabic word for “education.” The name change reflects its own change from the diplomatic and business center for expatriates it once was to its role since the late 1990s as a community center…[FULL STORY]