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For the Canadian figure skater, see Jamie Salé.
ⵙⵍⴰ / سلا
Monuments de Salé.png
Official seal of Salé
Salé is located in Morocco
Location in Morocco
Coordinates: 34°02′N 6°48′W / 34.033°N 6.800°W / 34.033; -6.800
Country  Morocco
Region Rabat-Salé-Kénitra
 • Mayor Noureddine Lazrek[1]
Population (2014)[2]
 • Total 982,163
Time zone WET (UTC+0)
 • Summer (DST) WEST (UTC+1)

Salé (Arabic: سلاSala, Berber ⵙⵍⴰ Sla) is a city in north-western Morocco, on the right bank of the Bou Regreg river, opposite the national capital Rabat, for which it serves as a commuter town. Founded in antiquity as a Phoenician colony, it became a haven for pirates as an independent republic before being incorporated into Alaouite Morocco.

The city's name is sometimes transliterated as Salli or Sallee. The National Route 6 connects it to Fez and Meknes in the east and the N1 to Kénitra in the north-east. Its population is approximately 900,000.[2]


View of downtown Salé in 1930
Map of downtown Salé

It was created originally on the south of the river Bou Regreg. So it is the oldest city on the Atlantic coast, as it was founded by the Phoenicians and was known during Roman times as Sala Colonia. Modern Challah was completed since the fall of the Western Roman empire on the other side (located to the north) of the river of Bou Regreg by the Banu Ifran dynasty. In the 10th century the Banu Ifran Berber tribe settled the area and constructed a settlement where the city currently stands. These Banu Ifran were also the builders of the 'Great Mosque of Salé'. During the 17th century, Rabat was known as New Salé, or Salé la neuve (in French), and included with its enlargement both the old Chellah and Sala Colonia ruins, which explains why Salé is the oldest city on the river.

In Pirate Utopias, Peter Lamborn Wilson says:

Salé... dates back at least to Carthaginian times (around 7th century BC). The Romans called the place Sala Colonia, part of their province of Mauritania Tingitane. Pliny the Elder mentions it (as a "desert town infested with elephants"). The Vandals captured the area in the 5th century AD. The Arabs (7th century) kept the old name and believed it derived from "Sala" (sic., his name is actually Salah), son of Ham, son of Noah; they said that Salé was the first city ever built by the Berbers.[3]

In September 1260, the city was raided and occupied by Castilian warriors for two weeks.[4]

Republic of Salé[edit]

Main article: Republic of Salé

In the 17th century, Salé became a haven for Moriscos-turned-Barbary pirates. Salé pirates (the well-known "Salé Rovers") roamed the seas as far as the shores of the Americas, bringing back loot and slaves. They formed the Republic of Salé. There is an American family, van Salee, descended from a Dutch Salé Rover, Jan Janszoon.[citation needed]

The city of Salé was bombarded by the French Admiral Isaac de Razilly on 20 July 1629 with a fleet composed of the ships Licorne, Saint-Louis, Griffon, Catherine, Hambourg, Sainte-Anne, Saint-Jean. He bombarded the city and destroyed 3 corsair ships.[5]

20th-century socio-political development[edit]

During the decades preceding the independence of Morocco, the city was the stronghold of some "national movement" activists. The reading of the "Latif" (a politically charged prayer to God, read in mosques in loud unison) was launched in Salé and relayed in some cities of Morocco.

In 1851, Salé was bombarded in retaliation for piracy being practiced by Moroccan ships against European traders.[6]

A petition against the so-called "Berber Dahir" (a decree that allowed some Berber-speaking areas of Morocco to continue using Berber Law, as opposed to Sharia Law) was given to Sultan Mohamed V and the Resident General of France. The petition and the "Latif" prayer lead to the withdrawal and adjustment of the so-called "Berber Decree" of May 1930. The activists that opposed the "Berber Decree" apparently had a fear that the explicit recognition of the Berber Customary Law (a very secular-minded Berber tradition) would threaten the position of Islam and its Sharia law system. Others saw in opposing the French-engineered "Berber Decree" as a means to turn the table against the French occupation of Morocco.

The widespread storm that was created by the "Berber Dahir" controversy created a somewhat popular Moroccan nationalist elite based in Salé and Fez with strong anti-Berber, anti-West, anti-secularism, and with strong Arab-Islamic inclinations. That episode of Moroccan history was the basis of some of the political awareness that would lead fourteen years later the signing of the Manifest of Independence of Morocco on 11 January 1944 by many "Slawi" activists and leaders. Salé has also been deemed to have been the stronghold of the Moroccan left for many decades, where many leaders have resided.


Salé has played a rich and important part in Moroccan history. The first demonstrations for independence against the French, for example, sparked off in Salé. A good number of government officials, decision makers and royal advisers of Morocco were born in Salé. Salé people, the Slawis, have always had a "tribal" sense of belonging, a sense of pride that developed into a feeling of superiority towards the "berranis", i.e. Outsiders.[citation needed]


The prefecture is divided administratively into the following:[2]

Name Geographic code Type Households Population (2014) Foreign population Moroccan population Notes
Bab Lamrissa 441.01.03. Arrondissement 44636 174936 668 174266
Bettana 441.01.05. Arrondissement 22360 95291 386 94905
Hssaine 441.01.06. Arrondissement 51858 214540 470 214070
Layayda 441.01.07. Arrondissement 33522 153361 163 153198
Sidi Bouknadel 441.01.08. Municipality 4955 25255 9 25246
Tabriquet 441.01.09. Arrondissement 61101 252277 629 251648
Shoul 441.03.01. Rural commune 3925 19915 6 19909 in the Salé Suburbs Circle
Ameur 441.03.05. Rural commune 8983 46590 16 46574 in the Salé Suburbs Circle

Modern city[edit]

Bab el-Mrisa Gate

Recent developments, including the new bridge connecting to Rabat, the new Rabat-Salé tramway, marina and coastal development demonstrate government investment. Private development companies such as Emaar Properties are also investing in the area. High unemployment used to be a serious issue to the Salé area, with the numerous textile factories located in this area being the only real source of work, this is recently diversing into other areas such as international call centres, electronics and recently[when?] a new "techno park" was opened, which was modeled on the Casablanca techno centre success.

Water supply and wastewater collection in Salé was[when?] irregular, with poorer and illegal housing units suffering the highest costs and most acute scarcities.[7] Much of the city used to rely upon communal standpipes, which were often shut down, depriving some neighbourhoods of safe drinking water[7] for indefinite periods of time. Nevertheless, Salé fared better than inland Moroccan locations, where water scarcity was even more acute.[7] Improvements from the government, local businesses and the water distribution companies of Regie de distribution d'Eau & d'Electricite de Rabat-Salé (REDAL) as of 2010 have meant that this situation has improved drastically.[8]

The A.S.S. is the football club of the city, and the president is Abderrahmane Chokri.[citation needed]

In popular culture[edit]

The film Black Hawk Down was partially filmed in Salé, in particular the wide angle aerial shots with helicopters flying down the coastline.

The character Robinson Crusoe, in Daniel Defoe's novel by the same name, spends time in captivity of the local pirates, the Salé Rovers, and at last sails off to liberty from the mouth of the Salé river.

Notable residents[edit]

Partner cities[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Le Président de la commune urbaine de Salé(French)
  2. ^ a b c 2014 Morocco Population Census(Arabic)
  3. ^ Wilson, Peter (1995). Pirate Utopias: Moorish Corsairs & European Renegadoes. Autonomedia. ISBN 1-57027-158-5. 
  4. ^ Dufourcq, Charles-Emmanuel (1966). Un projet castillan du XIIIe siècle : la croisade d'Afrique (in French). Faculty of Arts. p. 28. 
  5. ^ E.J. Brill's first encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936, Volume 9 by Martijn Theodoor Houtsma p.549
  6. ^ "'Abd ar-Rasham". Encyclopedia Britannica. I: A-Ak - Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago, IL: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. 2010. p. 17. ISBN 978-1-59339-837-8. 
  7. ^ a b c Guillaume Benoit and Aline Comeau, A Sustainable Future for the Mediterranean (2005) 640 pages
  8. ^ Richard N. Palmer (2010). World Environmental and Water Resources Congress 2010: Challenges of Change. ASCE Publications. p. 826. ISBN 978-0-7844-7352-8. 

Coordinates: 34°02′N 6°48′W / 34.033°N 6.800°W / 34.033; -6.800