Street scene in Tangier

While it's a compelling sort of city and a popular port of entry for tourists, Tangier is also home to some of the world's best hustlers. Perched on Morocco's northern tip, its international flavour remains strong; as does its reputation for inspiring shady deals and foreign misfits.

The city's central Petit Socco is the focus of attention. Back in the days when Tangier was a neutral international zone, this area provided the background for the seediest of lifestyles and it hasn't completely lost this air.

Paedophile scenes aside, it is the kasbah that interests many visitors. It contains the 17th-century Dar el-Makhzen, the former sultan's palace and now a good museum. The nearby American Legation Museum is a fascinating reminder that Morocco was the first country to recognise American Independence.

Some grooms would be perfectly happy with a goat or two or even a bottle of top shelf malt whisky as their dowry, but when he married Catherine of Braganza, Charles II got Tangier as part of the package deal. Before that the city had been passed from empire to empire more often than a three dollar bill, along the way acquiring, like Cassablanca, Marrakesh and Fes, a reputation for the exotic and the romantic.

This reputation was only enhanced when, in the 1920s, it became an international zone hosting eight countries, three languages, two currencies and a barrel load of illegal high jinks. This wild playground of permisiveness was a siren call to America’s 1950s literary riff raff who promptly turned their backs on the white-picket-fence-and-apple-pie life and went to smoke hashish and drink themselves stupid in the hot spicy city sandwiched between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.

Burroughs and Bowles, Kerouac and Ginsberg, Leary and Eldridge Cleaver; at one time or another they all came to the Kasbah. Bowles wrote his paean to love and louche living, Under the Sheltering Sky, in Tangier, and Burroughs wrote The Naked Lunch. These days that romantic world of languid foreigners, burdened by their own existential ennui, much given to gnomic utterances but always impeccably turned out in white, has been overtaken by more plebian activities.

Today, Tangier is less honestly louche than pragmatically aware of the value of the tourist dollar. But don’t let the hordes of tourist hustlers and pickpockets put you off a honeymoon visit. It still retains its faded mongrel charm - not entirely Moroccan, European or African but a heady mix of all three - and the old world of bazaars is still intact in the form of the Grand Socco with its makeshift shops, snake charmers, musicians and storyteller.

Visit the white-walled Kasbah and the Sultan’s Garden with its Moroccan fountain and fragrant herbs and shrubs, and orange and lemon trees. What better place to pitch the woo than the harem-coolness of the Kasbah. And at the end of the day there’s always that erotic Moroccan liquid light that French painter Delacroix painted over and over again and that makes an appearance in every love story set in the Middle East.

Tangier is five hours from Rabat by train, and an easy ferry ride from Spain or Gibraltar.