Football and cities : Safi. Morocco.


When a friend of ours tells about drastic changes in cities he likes, we already all know that he isn’t really talking about those cities : he refers to his lost golden age of his legendary jugend. No doubt. Because we all know that the form of city changes faster than the human heart (Baudelaire dixit) and that the grand bazar universel grows and grows and grows. Unchanging cities are just museums where no one is using anodized aluminum frames for his windows on the front of a sixteen century building. The Atlantic city of Safi in Morocco is certainly a changing city and in twenty years from now we will all be regretting that time without all those ground floor shops. The silo towers in the old harbor dominating the city landscape will be kept as industrial heritage. That’s what our friend from Safi Shark said. Because if you maybe don’t know about the Portuguese domination,  you probably know that Safi is the city of one of major Ultras groups in Morocco. Une ville, un club, un groupe. And like any other real football city, Safi has football speaking walls.

Ultras Shark Graffiti. Safi.
An Ultras Shark graffiti in the city center. © Giovanni Ambrosio/Offside Productions

Unless you are a surfer, you normally don’t plan to give a whirl to Safi during your Morocco trip. Which is a pity, because Safi has the rare beauty of non officially beautiful cities. Once you quit the larges avenues filled with uncountable standard rounds about in which when you turn right you could exit the same identical place in Tangier or Tétouan or Marrakech, you can head towards the sea and search for the undesigned, authentic city (although authentic isn’t exactly one my favorite words, I can easily picture a certain type of people saying oh qu’est-ce qu’ils sont authentiques ces Marocains!, and I definitely don’t want to be one of them.)

A view of Safi from the seaside. Ultras Shark members’ shadows on the floor © Giovanni Ambrosio/Offside Productions

Walk throughout the old Medina however you want, get lost, get scared, buy some fruits, yield to the invitation of some shopkeepers and try to buy old fashioned unofficial global brands shoes. If you are good enough to find it by yourself, have a lunch in a local restaurant owned by a family. You can go any time, you’ll always have a tajine. The service is nicely unprofessional but really caring and while eating you can join all the people hanging around deeply captivated by a Turkish soap opera on the flat tv screen. You could stay there during hours. But you can’t, you have to go forward until you exit on the big  Sidi Boudhab place. On your back you have the huge walls of the ancient bulwarks and in front of you another white smaller wall. Behind it the hidden railway reveals itself when a tremendously beautiful clatter of a freight train passing by fills the soundscape and perfectly matches with the soft golden light. It’s stunning. You definitely are elsewhere and yet you haven’t seen the ocean.

Chicken tajine. © Giovanni Ambrosio/Offside Productions

You can feel it, but you will get your eyes on it once you have moved a little bit on the left side. After a short climb, the avenue Allal Ben Abdellah runs alongside a breathtaking lungomare. Eventually there’s no other option but to wait for the sunset and the falling soft darkness. The landscape under the low sun light punctuated by people staring at the ocean will definitely make your day.

Lungomare Safi © Giovanni Ambrosio/Offside Productions

Find it by yourself : there is a beautiful beach in Safi, behind the harbor, really easy to find by the way. There are so many reasons why should give a walk over there. I will mention one for photography lovers : while taking picture, you will observe how much your gaze has been influenced by Luigi Ghirri. How predictable…

A football field on the beach © Giovanni Ambrosio/Offside Productions

Something really local : go for a lunch on a small hill which is less then ten minutes driving from the beach. There are at least four or five fried fish restaurants in a row and you can park just in front of them. The parking lot is truly important, because it’s your first contact with the restaurant. The voiturier will be playing a key rule in your car parking strategy but not only : he will also guide you towards his favorite restaurant. If you are familiar with places where an army of waiters, promoters, chefs de rangs, cooks, unidentified wives, casual passers by and another bunch of noisy people try to drag you into their restaurant at your left, while en exactly opposite army try to do exactly the same on your right side, you may be led to think that all this is happening because you are clearly not an insider. But you are wrong. This hell’s antechamber is made also for local people. And it truly is a moment of pure joy. Once you are seated, you are exhausted. You eat because you are starving by intense fatigue. Eyes on you from people in the other restaurant will add the guilt flavor to your meal. You clearly should have chosen the other one, they have no customers, they’ll die in absolute poorness and it will be all your fault. By the way, the fish is fresh and tastes delicious. The frying isn’t probably based on the ultimate techniques, but still. Ah, you can also eat with your hands. If you order a sparkling water they will bring it, for sure. Half an hour later. Because they buy it at the shop five minutes walking from there. But the good news is that you can take the bottle out at the end.

Giovanni Ambrosio

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