William Burroughs in Tangiers, why so open to gays?

Several times in the writings of Burroughs he mentions how different Tangiers was from the USA where he was constantly facing legal charges in connection with his sexuality and drug use. I think he even mentions his female landlord or neighbor in Tangiers at one point telling him she knew he was gay but thats cool.

The drug use is easy enough to figure out as he was using a pharmaceutical opioid sold OTC in Tangiers at the time.

But I can find a modern webpage where the author is using wink wink language to refer to homosexuality, he mentions the internet police? :confused:

I find a lot of references to Tangiers being unusually tolerant in the past, but not why. Was this tolerance only of foreigners?

And according to this its illegal to be gay in Morocco:


According to article 489 of the Penal Code, homosexuality in Morocco is illegal and can be punished with anything from 6 months to 3 years imprisonment and a fine of 120 to 1200 Dirhams.

In the community, a different orientation remains taboo and is considered immoral.


If the novel The Wrong People by Robin Maugham (nephew of Somerset Maugham) is to be believed, Tangiers was quite well known for gay tourism for much of the twentieth century. Maugham describes a fairly decent-sized local population engaged in various aspects of the sex trade. It would seem that Tangiers was known as a destination for teenage boys trying to make some money. The appeal would certainly be bigger for those actually interested in that sort of thing. It's my understanding that Tangiers cleaned up substantially not long after the book was written in 1967, though I don't really know any details of that.

I seem to remember hearing that embarassing members of rich/noble European families would go to places like Tangiers, that there was a whole subculture of 'problem'
expats. 'We'll send you a check so long as you stay out of sight, out of mind.' I would imagine that gays and addicts were common members. It that's true, some areas may have tried to attract that kind of money. Just a guess.

I would say it all boils down to money. If you come from a rich country and go to a poor country you are pretty well set up to pay off any corruptible official whose path you cross in your illegal activities in his country. Rich and poor are relative terms in this instance, of course. Because even if you are not rich in your own first world country, you will be rich by the time you get to a third world country. And if you are very rich in your own first world country, you will be absolutely gilded in a third world one.

So I would imagine that wealth and bribery played a part in foreigners evading prosecution for sex crimes in Tangiers then, much as it does today in those countries noted for sex tourism.

Tangier was an International Zone until 1956, because of the wrangling between spain and france for control of Morrocco. So it wasn’t part of Morocco at that time and was a very international, decadent place and tolerant place, much like Shanghai before the Japanese seized it in WW II. Burroughs was in Tangier from 1955-58, so he just caught the last part of it being the international zone.

Seems it kept it’s reputation and tolerance for at least another 10-15 years after it became formerly part of Morocco. From what I hear, even though Homosexuality is Illegal in morocco, there’s still plenty of action there and it’s still a tolerant place compared to the rest of the country,