Pirate Coast


Pirate notes

Cristel notes

Leo's description of Sale, in the early 1500s, does not yet mention the corsair trade which would later make the city famous and feared. His words are a testimony to a time when Christians and Muslims could live in the same town, each benefiting from the other's commerce. Such 'symbiosis' would be greatly compromised by the advent of organized piracy on the North African coast, some 20 years later:

Sela [Sale] is an ancient city, built by the Romans and conquered by the Goths. When the Muslims invaded the region, the Goths handed the city over to Tarek. When Fes was built, Sale came under its authority.

This town is built on the coast, on a beautiful site. It is no more than one mile away from Rabat; the Bu Regreg river flows between the two cities. Houses are built in the traditional way, ornate with mosaics and marble columns. So are the shops, built in fancy arcades. Sela once displayed all the luxuries of a great town and of a great port which received ships from Genoa, Venice, England and Belgium, and was the main port of Fes. But this town was captured by the King of Castille [Spain] in 658 [1260]. The population fled, and the Christians stayed for 10 days until the first ruler of the Merinide dynasty, Jacob retaliated and killed all of them.

While Sela was almost immediately re-conquered [by the Moroccans] it lost much of its population and refinement. There are many empty houses, beautiful examples of past craft, but people don't seem to appreciate them.

The land around Sela is all sand, aside from a few fields where they grow wheat. There are many gardens, as well as cotton fields. The city dwellers are mostly weavers and make cotton fabric of fine quality. People from Sela also make a great many combs which they sell all across the kingdom of Fes: the forests near the city provide the wood for this craft.

Today one can live comfortably in Sela. There is a governor, a judge and other officials, some of whom work with the many Genoese who trade there. The King is quite generous with them as their trade brings in much wealth. These merchants are to be found both in Sela and Fes. They are very honest and polite men, spending great sums to secure the friendship of local lords- not to abuse of their trust, but simply to live well in Morocco.

I once knew a remarkable Genoese man named Messire Thomasso de Marino. He lived in Fes for thirty years and when he died, the King of Fes sent his body to Genoa, as the latter had requested. This man left behind many sons, all of whom were greatly respected in the Fes court. " (Leo, 171)