On a recent sun-drenched winter’s day in Tangier, 50 guests celebrated New Year’s Eve around a long table on the veranda at British designer Jasper Conran’s hotel Villa Mabrouka.

Though the catastrophic September earthquake shook the tourism industry, daily life in Morocco’s northernmost city is back to normal. Many of its part-time residents have returned, and every night a social gathering of some kind takes place in the city—from the walled medina palaces to the hilltop villas of the Vieille Montagne district.

Conran, along with his husband, the Irish artist Oisin Byrne, was the host of this particular dinner party. It was only a few months ago, in June, that Conran completed the transformation of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé’s decadent former home into a 12-bedroom hotel, but the opening has already proved a resounding success.

A view of the hotel, which was once Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent’s residence.

After dinner, Jamie Creel and Marco Scarani, the founders of the New York boutique Creel and Gow, hosted a glamorous cocktail party in their nearby casbah home, Dar Zero. Guests flitted around in sequin dresses and velvet jabador-style jackets.

Long disregarded by commercial-travel routes, Tangier has always been a refuge for an interesting cast of characters, both Moroccan and foreign. As Princess Ira von Fürstenberg once said, “I love Tangier because it mixes the up-here with the down-there, and nothing in between!”

The Marrakech suite at Villa Mabrouka.

But now, there’s a renewed energy in this white-painted city, in part thanks to the recent arrival of the high-speed Al Boraq train connecting Tangier and Casablanca via a two-hour ride. And unlike its more popular neighbor, Marrakech, the city remains, at least for now, blissfully under the radar.

“Sometimes,” the Belgian designer and Tangier regular Philip Vergeylen says, “the greatest luxury is the ability to get away from too many people and too much noise.”

Tanjawi Charm

The port town has attracted an eclectic crowd for centuries. After the Portuguese occupation, in 1471, it was transferred to England in 1661 as part of the dowry of Queen Catherine of Braganza. When English statesman Samuel Pepys arrived from the north a few years later, he described the city in his 1666 diaries as a mess: “[There] was nothing but vice in the whole place of all sorts, swearing, cursing, drinking, and whoring.” The English sacked and fled Tangier 20 years later, driven out by Moroccan sultans.

Tangier’s old medina overlooks the main port.

In the late 19th century, the English journalist Sir Walter Harris wrote about the city’s enigmatic sultans for The Times of London, helping establish Tangier’s identity as a cocktail of glamour and intrigue. (Harris was an inspiration for Indiana Jones.)

When the city was returned to Morocco in 1956, after 30 years as an international zone, its appeal was only fortified. The American politician Malcolm Forbes, the Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton, and a few newly minted Gulf-state princesses made the ancient medina their home. Many of them purchased local houses and combined them to form veritable stone palaces.

The Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton plays the balalaika at home in the casbah, 1970.

Socialites such as Paul and Talitha Getty and fashion muse Loulou de la Falaise soon followed. As Moroccan politics led to an abandonment of the country’s north, Tangier’s laisser-aller reputation worsened into one of vice and lawlessness. The smart set moved on, and the Beats, the Rolling Stones, and many others on the hippie trail passed through, partying and imbibing with the locals.

“I love Tangier because it mixes the up-here with the down-there, and nothing in between!”

When the hippies left Tangier in the 1990s, they left behind a foreign community that was decidedly older. A 2014 feature in T Magazine profiled these “aesthetes” who formed a bridge between what Tangier was and what it is today. Lunch parties lingered on stories of bygone former residents, like the painter Mohamed Hamri, the writer Paul Bowles, and the designer Yves Vidal.

Golden years: Peter Orlovsky, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Alan Ansen, Gregory Corso, Ian Sommerville, and Paul Bowles in Tangier.

But new visitors and cultural events are reviving Tangier’s reputation. Interior designers such as Scarani and Creel, Nicolò Castellini Baldissera, Frank de Biasi, Hervé Van Der Straaten, and Jean Louis Deniot have all purchased houses in the city.

Meanwhile, the acclaimed French-Moroccan artist Yto Barrada’s 2006 renovation of the Cinémathèque Rif, an Art Deco theater, has become a center for Tanjawi hipsters. Recently, Barrada unveiled the Mothership, a garden dedicated to the cultivation of natural dyes, which also serves as a research center and library for emerging talent.

The façade of the city’s Art Deco theater, Cinémathèque Rif.

“Now is a moment of rebirth and magic,” Kenza Bennani, the designer behind the label New Tangier, says.

An annual summer play, which has been staged by producer and choreographer Rob Ashford, his partner, Kevin Ryan, and landscape architect Madison Cox since 2015, attracted 150 attendees—a blend of artists, eccentrics, and philanthropists—on opening night last year.

These projects, along with such institutions as the bookshop Les Insolites, the art studio Think Tangier, and the Tanjazz Festival, are fueling the city’s creative output.

Where there is culture, restaurants and hotels follow. At the local Italian joint Casa d’Italia, in the evenings, white tablecloths and uniformed waiters play host to people fluttering between tables and trading gossip, while the basement piano bar at El Morocco provides spillover for dancing.

The foyer at Jamie Creel and Marco Scarani’s home Dar Zero.

Late nights usually start at Anzar, a new nightclub on the port, or Tangerinn, the same hotel where William S. Burroughs wrote Naked Lunch. After the festivities, you’ll likely run into someone on the beach at either L’Océan, for oysters and Chablis, or Chez Mounir, for paella and beer.

In the late-winter months, the travelers who fly in to loaf, socialize, and house-hunt will slowly return. Meanwhile, rich Moroccan emigrants arrange polo matches at a beachside club owned by Patrick Guerrand-Hermès.

Creel and Scarani host charming candlelit dinners and cocktail parties in the garden.

“People go to Fez for the ancient and traditional, Marrakech for the beauty of the desert and the amenities, and Agadir for the resorts,” Nicolò Castellini Baldissera, author of Inside Tangier, explains. “But in Tangier, we have community, and that is what inspires people to stay.”

Christopher Garis is a writer whose work has appeared in The World of Interiors, T Magazine, and Elle Decor. He divides his time between Tangier, Venice, and Milan