Medina of the city of Safi

Medina of the city of Safi

In the kingdom of Morocco, on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, there is a city called Safi. It is famous for its traditional pottery. But I want to talk about the medina, an ancient city, medieval and mysterious, but full of life.

In the 15th century, the Portuguese, then great conquerors and navigators, built forts along the Atlantic coast of northwest Africa.

Inside the forts and massive fortress walls was a city with its houses, churches, mosques and markets.

The masters – the rulers of these fortress cities – changed over time, but the fortresses themselves withstood battles and centuries. They survived and live on to this day.

The name of this intramural fortress city is medina, an Arabic word meaning city.

In Safi there is also a Portuguese port (photo from the advertisement). It used to be the maritime gate of the medina and was located inside its walls. Today, it is separated from the medina by a boulevard with the old walls rising behind it.

The rich and even the middle class have long since moved to villas and houses outside the walls. The medina is lined with medieval apartment blocks that are still in use today. There is electricity and sewage, but water is not available everywhere; in some places, it is taken from the street tap. It is a meeting place for neighbors, a sort of social club, and sometimes a laundry, a dry cleaner. The faucet is not just a faucet, but a kind of lion with water coming out of its mouth.

Safi is not a tourist town. There are no guided tours of the medina. Once there, you run the risk of getting lost. The walls of the skyscrapers rise high, the streets are narrow and winding, and often plunge into arches, passages under the houses. There are no street names or house numbers written prominently. Maybe not even.

So why go there? Because it’s beautiful.

It’s a real beauty, no frills.

The walls of the houses are painted in different colors and, due to the proximity of the ocean, even the freshly painted ones look old.

The medina is also mysterious. When you enter it, you somehow feel that people have lived there all these centuries.

What has happened during that time, what kind of people have not been inside the ancient walls. And then there is the mixture of religions, Catholic and Muslim. There is a Portuguese cathedral in the medina. It’s not destroyed at all. But it is gloomy inside, dark vaults protruding, compelling. A lot must have happened in this place.

Here’s a glimpse from a street cafe.

The women are dressed in hooded jelabas (traditional costumes). Each djeleb is necessarily handmade silk lace. It is sewn on the edges of the sleeves, the center cut and the hood. Often, the corner of the hood is decorated with a silk tassel of the same silk as the lace.

The color combinations in Moroccan clothing and decoration are very beautiful and for the European (if not fashion designer) unusual. For example, orange and blue, pink and red, dark pink and sky blue, or different shades of green together.

By the way, many fashion designers are inspired by Morocco. They often come to Morocco or even buy a house and live and create. Moroccan life is picturesque, it gives new ideas.

The medina is also a market. Many streets are dedicated to craftsmen and simple traders. And you can always get a tasty and cheap food.

In winter, in the medina you can see sellers of snails. There are always many people around them, they are never empty. Boiled snails with seasonings are one of the most popular winter dishes. They are drunk in a cup, they are very spicy and hot. Once you drink it, you get warm inside. A portion of snails costs a penny, and the dish is considered vulgar. However, it is very tasty and filling. These are the same snails that can be found in France and are a delight for gourmets.

The medina of Safi is also home to one of the most famous potteries in the world.

Near the city there is a deposit of very good clay, suitable for the production of pottery. Since ancient times, pottery has flourished in Safi. Dynasties of craftsmen continue to work in the medina, as they did centuries ago. Pottery is still used in everyday life in Morocco. There is nothing like a terracotta tajine. Every family has several. The best ceramic tableware in Morocco comes from Safi.

Around the medina is now a modern city with banks, supermarkets, universities and production facilities. Safi is one of the world’s leading producers of canned sardines. And of phosphates, for which ships arrive from all over the world. As you enter the port to load there is a line of ships, at night their lights glow beautifully on the nearby sea. Safi is not a tourist town, but a working town. Tourists stop there on their way south to see and buy the famous ceramics.

And I can’t fail to mention the world famous “Snakehead” surf spot “Ras el Fa”, which is right in town, next to the beach and the harbor. Surfers from different continents flock there to ride its waves. Sometimes, the wave curls up forming a long tube in which one can slide for a long time.

And the medina is the living part of a modern city, perhaps even its heart. As long as it lives, so will the Moroccan city of Safi.

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