In the nineteenth century, the Mediterranean Basin was teeming with sea traffic. The European powers, following the Congress of Vienna, worked to unify their efforts to curtail piracy in the Mediterranean Sea and were able to create a legal framework capable of protecting their ships, since the decisions of the Congress criminalized piracy and enabled the pursuit of pirate ships. Despite these international changes, tribes from the Rif continued their pirate activity as a form of popular struggle (a maritime struggle without backing from the central authority) against the sway and aspirations of the European powers. The “primitive” boats of the Rifis threatened European shipping routes in the western Mediterranean, which led to the world referring to them as “savage pirates”. The issue of Rifi piracy caused considerable fuss in Europe. The European press launched a frenzied campaign against the pirates and offered a distorted view of the situation to their readers. This article seeks to answer a number of related questions What defined these pirates? How did the Makhzen view them? How did Rifi boats serve to threaten European shipping routes in the 19th century?