Guide to Salé, Morocco

Although only a few hundreds of metres away from Rabat across the Bou Regrag estuary, Sale is a half a world away from the modern capital. Very little within the old city walls has changed over the centuries and in comparison to nearby Rabat, Sale does indeed seem forgotten by time.

Sale was the pre-eminent of the two right through the Middle Ages, from the declining reign of the Almohads in the 13th century to the heyday of the pirate republic of Bou Regrag – infamous pirate bands which made the twin towns their home – in the 18th century. Under the Merenids, in particular, the town flourished and became a port of some stature with established trade links with Venice, Genoa and the Netherlands. The surviving monuments from this period will rival the best you can find in Rabat.

Under the French protectorate, as Rabat was made capital and Casablanca emerged as Morocco’s principal port, Sale began to dwindle into relative obscurity. More recently, it has sprawled inland outside the walled old quarters with modern developments rampant alongside the main road north towards Kenitra.

Nevertheless, Sale remains a strongly traditional city within its medieval walls, souks and way of life. It feels and looks very different from the relative liberalism of its twin sister, Rabat.