Puerto de Maio is an island located off the coast of southwestern Morocco. The High Atlas mountains culminate on this coastline, and the Royal city of Agadir is the closest Moroccan city to Puerto de Maio.
Puerto de Maio itself was once part of the Atlas mountain chain, attached to the mainland just north of Agadir. However, unusual and catastrophic coastal flooding beginning at the outset of the 1800s separated it from the African land mass. Now the island sits about sixty miles off the Moroccan coast. Puerto de Maio is mainly temperate and forested, but includes some of the mountainous terrain of the High Atlas.
Up until very recently Puerto de Maio has been too remote and insignificant for the Sultanate to take much notice of it. It is not a royal city, and the Sultan has appointed no local vizir to directly oversee the area. Like the rest of rural Morocco a local tribe would typically control this land, but since its odd physical separation from the Moroccan coast control of Porto de Maio has been hotly contested between two powerful tribes of southwestern Morocco, the Taieb and the Madani. These tribes are particularly significant since their leaders are "qaids", or governors officially sanctioned by the Sultan. This means that while they retain the autonomy typical of a rural tribe the Sultan may at times offer them support, and vice versa. With the recent revelations and activity in Porto de Maio these tribes have renewed the vigor of their conflict, though to this point the violence between the sides has remained on the mainland. Because of this, the island is not densely populated - or wasn't, until Europe took notice of it.
Porto de Maio has recently attracted the attention of the entire European community, if not the world, and France, Spain, Britain, Germany and America have all rushed to protect their interests there. Britain has firmly maintained its traditional posture that it is best that Moroccan territory stay in Moroccan hands (though some say this is only to avoid having to pay for the cost of occupation), and so far the rest of the foreign powers have followed suit. However, consular corps from several countries have made extended visits to the island, and it seems clear that although most major diplomacy will continue to be played out in mainland Royal cities, diplomatic rivalries are sure to erupt in Puerto de Maio. The founding of the University Consortium, as well as several private ventures, has guaranteed a keen foreign interest will remain there for some time as well. France and Spain have made it clear that they have no intentions of occupying the area unless the safety of their citizens there were seriously compromised, but each has a small military presence there to ensure the security of their consular personnel.
This means that essentially, Porto de Maio is under no formal enforcement of law at the moment. Of course, as part of Morocco, general obedience to the Sultan is expected, but the lack of clear control by either tribe has prevented local laws from being enforceable, or even known in some cases. Many European visitors expect to appeal to their consular representatives if the need should arise, although the Consuls themselves have rumbled about the danger of meddling directly in Moroccan affairs. On the other hand, most natives rely on the threat of the nearby tribal armies on the mainland for protection, although they are fully engaged in what amounts to a small civil war. There is some apprehension that there may be a lack of parties willing to claim responsibility for criminal acts in some cases, and an overabundance of them in others. It seems unlikely that any party - the Sultan, local tribes, or foreign countries - will directly and openly intervene in Porto de Maio, unless their interests are seriously compromised by events there.
Access to Porto de Maio is mainly by steamship. Trading and passenger ships come about once a month. Regular tourist cruises have begun as well, carrying passengers anxious to get a look at the now-famous island. The eccentric British adventurer and trader Donald Scottsworthy, founder of the North West Africa Company, is also building a railroad in the lands outlying Puerto de Maio - a strange decision, since it is an island. Reports indicated that Scottsworthy believes he can connect the mainland to the island by building a rail bridge, increasing trade and tourism in Puerto de Maio. Many see this as about as possible as his well-known earlier scheme to flood the Sahara and allow maritime access to the interior of Africa.
Puerto de Maio itself is a small but bustling inland port town. The Adventurer's Club, founded by the famous British expeditionary society of the same name, shares a large building with the local "Theater Moderne" and its attached nightclub which are active mainly in the evening hours. The town has several buildings serving as sleeping accommodations for visitors and residents, as well as a Residence built by the Sultan housing foreign dignitaries, University Consortium faculty, and others. The Consortium Departments do not have specific building or space allotted to them, but use whatever space is available and necessary for their various projects. Several entrances to what seem to be early Egyptian-dynasty crypts and tombs have been found in the town and outlying areas. Of course, the mysterious Clocktower is the town's most famous landmark. The forests surrounding Puerto de Maio are very dense, and reports state that only the most experienced local guides can venture in without becoming completely lost. Accounts of large and unusual wild game prowling the forests prevent most people from testing the theory. There is also word that a diamond mine has been discovered in the area.
Local customs in Puerto de Maio are mainly centered on hospitality. It is traditional to greet someone by asking whether they are in need of refreshment, perhaps offering them food or drink. This is a courtesy, and the standard response is a polite "No, thank you," but many people honor this custom by carrying a flask or food with them to offer to those they meet. In Morocco, it is considered the very highest honor to be invited to join someone for a meal, and it is seen as the basest insult to refuse such an offer. Further, it is universally expected that when a visitor arrives at your door, he or she should be offered a refreshment. Moroccans traditionally offer tea, a custom which the British in particular have enthusiastically adopted. It is considered poor manners not to place a small rug in on the stoop of your dwelling, which announces that visitors are welcomed by those who live there. Many dwellings have small cushions and other conveniences arrayed outside the door as well.
Moroccans are superstitious about some things. Once a year in the Fall it is traditional to place an empty envelope outside, underneath the welcome carpet, at sundown. The envelope is left out all night, often accompanied by wine, tea, and other offerings. It is believed that if the spirits have messages or knowledge they wish to impart specifically to you they will do so in secret during the night. Moroccans also believe that hanging lanterns or lights brings good fortune, and dwellings in Moroccan towns are frequently decorated in this way. Local myths hold that rain brings knowledge with it. It is also believed that a full or bright moon portends a great battle.
Notes: Your character can not have visited Puerto de Maio prior to your first event. Also, you may not enter some areas of the woods without an NPC guide. These areas will be marked.
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