Pirate Coast


Pirate notes

Cristel notes

In Leo and Duarte's days, Sale was not yet known for its piracy, which made its fame a few decades later. Here are Duarte's words on the city:

"It is a great city but with few inhabitants. The bottom is safe where the river meets the ocean. However, whoever drifts by 50 strokes into the ocean will soon find himself 1o leagues from land. Sale is made up of three seperate units, each at a different location along the river. On the side of Tamesna, where the Arabs of Chaouia live, there is a place called Rabat and another named Chellah- where they once burried the Kings of Fes, waiting for theis next abode in hell! Then there is the town of Sale- but all three places are collectivelty known as Sale" (Duarte, 239)

The 'corsairs of Sale' have made the city's fame, and tourists today can still enjoy legends of attack and theft at high sea. Yet, despite this legendary thrill, very few people actually know the details of this epoch.

The first confusion deals with location: Sale is a town a mile away from Rabat, across the River Bou Regreg. Many believe the corsairs lived in the ancient city, and not on the other side of the river. However, in the 16th century, Sale referred to forts on either side of the river- to today's Sale Medina AND to the Kasbah des Oudayas. Actually, the Kasbah was the seat of central power, as it was safely protected from both land and sea.

The second confusion deals with the 'causes' of piracy. Many believe that the Saletins became corsairs as a result of their growing hatred for the Spanish, and their desire to wage a 'jihad' [holy war] against them. True, refugees from Andalusia and Castille were constantly pouring into the port, but the real impetus for piracy came from the tremendous wealth and power these city states could derive from it. By the mid 16th century, Sale had an autonomous government, and paid little tribute to the Moroccan ruler. At its height, the Corsair republic of Sale had a status much comparable to the Republic of Tunis or Algiers.

Leo did not experience the 'corsair' Sale. In his days, the city was still a prosperous, but declining port. The wealth which had once been brought into the country via Genoese and Venitian merchants would soon be replaced with gains from rapine- either at sea or on enemy coasts.

Continue this trip to learn about life aboard a pirate ship.