Safi Tourism: Sights and Attractions
The main interest in Safi lies in its walled and fortified Medina, the imposing Portuguese fort and the giant pottery works on the hills northeast of the Medina.
Dar Al Bahar and the Medina
Sited on the waterfront, above the port, is the Dar el Bhar the main Portuguese remnant in Safi. The impressive fortress was built by the Portuguese during their brief stay here (1508 – 1541) to house the town’s governor and saw subsequent use as a fortress and prison.
The fortress was restored in 1963 and looks pretty impressive. In the central courtyard, there are a number of 17th century Spanish and Dutch canons pointing out to the sea. To the right of the entrance, you can see the old prison cells used to house prisoners before being killed or shipped overseas as slaves. Climb to the roof of the prison tower to enjoy a panoramic view out across the medina and the port.
Dominating the eastern side of the Medina is yet another Portuguese fortress – Kechla. This is a massive defensive structure with living quarters, gunnery platforms and ramparts. It housed the town’s modern prison until 1990 but it has now been restored as the National Ceramic Museum. Exhibits include a collection of local ceramics as well as pottery from Fez and Meknes. Of more interest are the British cannons, garden courtyards and Portuguese coats of arms on display.
In the Medina proper is one further remnant of the Portuguese in Safi, the so-called Cathédrale Portugaise – The Portuguese Cathedral. The cathedral is only partially built as the Portuguese withdrew from the city. There is only the choir gallery of the would-be cathedral and just one vaulted hall left standing.
Beyond these sights, head to Rue du Socco – the main street in the Medina – for the main souks and stalls of the Medina.
Colline des Potiers
Outside the Medina, sprawling on the hills above, you can’t miss the dozens of whitewashed earthen kilns and chimneys of the Collines des Potiers – the potters’ quarter.
The quarter is worth a visit as the process here remains largely traditional – ancient tamarisk-fired kilns are still used. You can wander the cooperatives and see the potters at work: moulding clay, hand-painting complex designs and glazing the finished product.
At the foot of the hillside is a street of showrooms. The products on display include bowls, platters, bases, decorative ceramics and the characteristic green tiles that top many mosques and palaces around Morocco.