Sale Tourism: Sights and Attractions
The main sights in Sale are found within the walls of the old Medina, where the souks and life remain staunchly traditional.
The most interesting point to enter the medina is through Beb Mrisa. Its name – which translates to the small harbour – is in reference to its use in medieval times to allow ships to sail into town through a canal connected to the ocean. The gate itself is Merenid, dating back to 1270, although its design and motifs are inherently Almohad. It was through this gate that Robinson Crusoe was brought into captivity in Daniel Defoe’s novel.
Inside Bab Mrisa, turn to the left and continue close to the walls until you come to a secondary gate – Bab Bou Haja. The street from Bab Bou Haja emerges into a kissaria (covered market) devoted to textiles, with surrounding alleys grouped around specific crafts.
There is Souk el Ghezel, the wool market devoted to the sale of rough white wool. Another interesting stop is at Souk el Merzouk, a speciality market for textiles, basketwork and jewellery. A least interesting market for travellers is the grand souk, Souk el Kebir, which sells second-hand household items.
The Medersa and Grand Mosque
The Grand Mosque and adjacent medersa is the most notable surviving monument of medieval Sale – a monument to rival the best of those of Rabat. Almohad in origin, the Grand Mosque is one of the largest and earliest mosques in Morocco – although as a religious monument it is closed for Muslims. The minaret and gateway you can see from outside are only recent additions
Thankfully, the medersa, just opposite the mosque’s main entrance, is open to the general public as a museum. It was built in 1334 by Almohad Sultan Abu Al Hassan, and thus contemporary to the famous Bou Inania medersas of Fez and Meknes. Like them, it follows the Merenid design of a small, central courtyard opening up onto a prayer hall and surrounded by student cells in the upper floor. As with all Merenid medersas, the decoration is intense and intricate – from the zellij base to the carved stucco and elegant cedar woodwork.
From the upper floor, you can climb to the roof, which has an excellent view of Sale. Looking out across the river to Rabat, you will appreciate the sheer size of the Hassan Tower.