The Sunken City of Tighalin

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n the 28th of September 2020, the Moroccan association for the research and conservation of underwater historical heritage discovered several archaeological relics dating from the 2nd century BCE in the ocean floor, over a length of 30 kilometers, between Safi and Sidi Bouzid. In a statement to the MAP, the vice-president of the association Reedouane Bourka pointed out that these discoveries could tell us about Tighalin, a mythical city rooted in the legend of Safi.

Let's take a deep dive and try to piece together the lore on this mythical city that's still being talked about over two millennias after its disappearance…

The Tighalin myth

Grotte du Studieux, à quelques kilomètres de Safi.
Grotte du Studieux, a few kilometers from Safi.

According to a legend from the city of Safi, Tighalin is a city engulfed by the sea 7km from Cape Cantin (Cape Beddouza), itself at a 33km distance from Safi. The place is said to be inhabited by a mermaid and her children who come to recite the Quran in the Studious Cave (a cave very similar to the Cave of Hercules in Tangier).

Legend has it that several fishermen, visiting the place or fishing nearby, overheard these children chanting inside the cave. Curious and worried, they approached the cave to see where these sounds came from. The children, frightened by the arrival of the fishermen, fleed and threw themselves into the sea through the entrance to the cave.

According to this legend, these children are supernatural beings descended from the mermaid, who birthed them in the same cave.

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From myth to reality


Apart from the oral legend circulating among the ancients of the region, very few sources mention this mythical city. The Moroccan historian Ibrahim Harakat explains in his book “Morocco Through History” that during the Carthaginian visit to present-day Morocco by Hannon the Navigator In the 16th century before the common era (BCE), they stopped in a region called Ras Solis, between the cities of present-day Kenitra and Safi, and built a place of worship dedicated to Poseidon, god of the seas and storms.

Since the Carthaginians were the builders of certain Moroccan cities such as Tingi (Tangier) or Lixus (Larache), it's possible that the city of Tighalin has a Carthaginian origin. However, there is no mention of the city in Carthaginian texts, which suggests it was possibly a lighthouse that ended up collapsing after a storm and/or being hit by waves just as the lighthouse of Alexandria which met the same fate as well as having fueled several myths and legends.

On the 15th of December 2005, a team from the show Amoudou conducted a major search operation north of the city of Safi, 400 meters deep to try to find traces, even if minimal, to prove the existence of this city, but their efforts were in vain, being unable to find anything except a few small remains of the 18th century.

Several other writers who have recounted the history and geography of the region, such as the historians Fkih El Abdi El Kanouni (19th century) and Hassan al-Wazzan (16th century), have never mentioned mythical sites or cities refering to Tighalin.

Similarly, for Mohammed Sbihi Slaoui or Armand Antona, this city only exists in the imagination of the people inhabiting the region. Modern marine authors and explorers in the likes of Piri Reis mentioned several sunken cities without ever hinting at Tighalin. For some villagers however, the sea levels were supposedly much lower than they are today.

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Renewed hope through archaeological research

The discovery of remains dating back almost to 2000 years ago have brought back the topic of this legend once more. According to Redouane Bourga, a founding member and vice-president of the said association, these archaeological discoveries could date back to the second century BCE and even to the Bronze Age (2000 years, from 2700 to 900 BCE).

The association also discovered prehistoric caves as well as fossilized human bones from Ain El Moucha in the area of Cap Beddouza (30 km from Safi) and the remains of a warship over four centuries old.

The Safi region remains full of unknown places and virgin archaeological sites, continued Redouane Bourga. New scientific surveys are planned to shed more light on the mysteries of Tighalin…

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