The Grand Socco, Tangier © Chris Yunker
The word socco is the Spanish version of souk, meaning market, and has stuck to this square in the heart of Tangier because of its Spanish heritage. The square is, however, no longer a marketplace, but rather a city crossroads and huge taxi rank, fronted by cafes, outside the fortified old part of the city. The Grand Socco has developed something of a reputation for being a meeting place for criminals and drug dealers, but it is still an interesting spot to spend time watching the passing parade and the Rif women in colourful traditional costume touting vegetables and fresh mint. It is also the jumping off point for entry to the medina, and for admiring the luxurious Mendoubia Gardens on the north side, and the mosaic-studded minaret of the Sidi Bou Abid Mosque to the west. Tourists should be vigilant and should not openly display wealth, but the crime in the Grand Socco is generally petty and opportunistic, mainly consisting of pick-pocketting. The Grand Socco is particularly active at night, when food stalls and second-hand goods stores pop up and the square takes on some of its traditional function as a market. The square is also associated with Morocco's independence movement and is actually officially called the Place du Grand 9 Avril 1947, after a famous speech made in support of independence.