Republic of Salé

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Not to be confused with Republic of Salo.
Republic of Salé
Republic of Bouregreg
República de Salé
República de las Dos Orillas


Rabat-Salé, where the republic was located
Capital Kasbah
Languages Spanish, Arabic, Spanish based lingua franca[1][2]
Government Corsair Republic
 -  Established 1627
 -  Disestablished 1668
 -  est. 20,000[3][4] 

The Republic of Salé was a short-lived city state at the mouth of the Bou Regreg river, founded by Moriscos - descendants of Jews and Muslims who nominally converted to Christianity, but were expelled during the Spanish Inquisition. Its main commercial activities were the Barbary slave trade and piracy[3] during its brief existence in the 17th century. The city is now part of the Kingdom of Morocco.


The ancient harbor at the Bou Regreg, taken from Salé facing Rabat

Arrival of the Moriscos[edit]

The republic traces its origins back to the beginning of the 17th century, with the arrival of approximately 3,000 wealthy Moriscos from Hornachos (Extremadura, Spain), who anticipated the 1609 expulsion edicts ordered by Philip III of Spain.[5] After 1609, approximately 10,000 down-and-out expelled Moriscos arrived from Spain.[6] Cultural differences between the native Saletin people and the Morisco refugees, together with language differences led the newcomers to settle in the old Medina of Rabat, on the opposite bank of the Bou Regreg.[3]

Progressively, a thriving activity of piracy expanded on the western bank.[7]In 1624, the Dutchman Jan Janszoon (also known as Murad Reis) became the "Grand Admiral", and therefore the chief executive of the community.[citation needed]


In 1627, after Janszoon left Salé, Moriscos ceased to recognize the authority of the Sultan Zidan al-Nasir, whom they accused to tithe on their incomes.[8] They proclaimed a Republic, ruled by a council or Diwan, a sort of government cabinet formed by 12 to 14 notable people whose members elected every year during the month of May a Governor and a Captain General of the Fortalesa. In the early years of the republic (between 1627 and 1630), the Diwan was controlled only by Hornacheros, whose grip was poorly tolerated by the growing population of non-Hornachero Moriscos, called Andalusians.[9] After bloody clashes in 1630, an agreement was reached: the election of a Qaid by Andalusians and a new Diwan of 16 members of whom 8 Andalusians and 8 Hornacheros.[10]

In 1641, the zaouia of Dila, which controlled much of Morocco, imposed a religious hegemony over Salé and its parents republic.[11] By the early 1660s, the republic was embroiled in civil war with the zawiya, and eventually Sultan Al-Rashid of Morocco of the Alaouite dynasty, who still rule Morocco into the 21st century, would seize Rabat and Salé, ending its independence. It indeed ended up being controlled by the Sultan of Morocco, after 1668, when Moulay al Rashid finally vanquished the Dilaites.[12]

Popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ Coindreau 2006, p.43-44
  2. ^ Barnaby Rogerson, « The Sallee Rovers », in
  3. ^ a b c (French) Leïla Maziane, « Salé au XVIIe siècle, terre d’asile morisque sur le littoral Atlantique marocain », in Cahiers de la Méditerranée, no 79, 2009
  4. ^ a b Maziane 2007, p.116
  5. ^ Coindreau 2006, p.42
  6. ^ Coindreau 2006, p.43
  7. ^ (French) « Rabat/Salé, la conquête pirate », in Le Monde, September 1st, 2009
  8. ^ Maziane 2007, p.59
  9. ^ Coindreau 2006, p.48
  10. ^ Coindreau 2006, p.44-45 & 49-50
  11. ^ "Class/social stratification in Islam", History and underdevelopment in Morocco, p. 43, Retrieved 30 September 2009.
  12. ^ Roger Coindreau, 2006, p. 53
  13. ^ "Robinson's Captivity at Sallee", The life and surprising adventures of Robinson Crusoe, p. 14, Retrieved 30 September 2009.


Coordinates: 34°2′N 6°50′W / 34.033°N 6.833°W / 34.033; -6.833