El Glaoui’s Family

El Glaoui’s Family

The Glawas, who had been installed for centuries in a mountain canton, controlled the Tizi n'Glaoui pass in the western High Atlas, a passageway for caravans traveling from Ouarzazate to Marrakech. They had succeeded in exploiting this strategic road, particularly the Amazwar family, from which the Amghars Glawas (chiefs) of Telouet descend.

The association of El Glaoui family begins in 1856 when a Dahir of Sultan Moulay Abderrahmane of Mohamed of Ibibat appointed him to govern the Ahl Telouet for his talents as a military leader and gunpowder man. The Caid’s first step was to settle himself in Telouet, first by constructing his Kasbah and military base towards the south, and then to begin collecting a tax on the souk and passageway crossings in the name of the Sultan. Mohamed died in 1886 after the establishment of his base in the mountains, and his son Madani replaced him. He has completed the construction of the kasbahs of Telouet and Taourirt in Ouarzazate, thereby strengthening his economic empire in the Draa region.

However, the true success of the Glaouis started with Sultan Moulay Al Hassan’s transit of the Telouet passage in 1893 on his way back from an expedition in Tafilalet, where he was unable to pursue his trip towards Marrakech because of snowfall. Madani had received the Sultan gloriously by putting all resources at his disposal to complete his harka (expedition). Thus, the Sultan appointed him Khalifa for the entire South (Todgha, Tafilalet, and Feija) and offered him modern weapons and a Krupp cannon (which is still in the courtyard of the Kasbah of Taourirt in Ouarzazate) to be returned once the routes were cleared. However, the Sultan died six months later, and the weapons were never returned to the Makhzen.

This new weaponry would change the balance of power and allow Madani, as a warlord, to conduct raids and looting operations against his opponents as he pleased, increasing his control over the South. He then moved on to the Haouz and its capital, Marrakech.

Madani succeeded in making his way within the Alaouite courts in Marrakech through a game of alliances and rallies, becoming head of the national army in 1907 and prime minister in 1909. All this in a period marked by political instability and competition between the great Caids of the Atlas, the plain, and future supporters of the Protectorate such as El Mtouggui, El Goundafi, El Layyadi, El Glaoui…

It is important to highlight that the rise of the warlords because of the tribal weakening and destabilization of the Alaouite state was a result of French influence, resulting in the emergence of this Caidal System. This system would be used by the Protectorate to facilitate the occupation of the territory through “The Policy of the Big Caids” implemented by Lyautey, France’s first General Resident in Morocco.

Another notable member of this family was Madani’s brother, Haj Thami El Glaoui (1878 – 1956). Thami El Glaoui had been fascinated by the French and sided with them during the signing of the Protectorate in 1912 and the occupation of the country. He also conspired against the royal family by participating in the August 20, 1953 upheaval that resulted in the exile of Sultan Sidi Mohamed Ben Youssef. For this, under an agreement with the French that is now known as the “Hafidian disgrace,” he was generously rewarded for his collaboration by being reconfirmed as Pasha of Marrakech in 1912, until the independence of Morocco. Because of his status, the Pasha had multiple privileges and advantages, which made him a financial power with a large fortune consisting of estates, properties, and income of various types, acquisitions, and profits coming most often from confiscation operations, extractions, and the detention operations of irrigation water, particularly in some watersheds of Oueds flowing from the High Atlas to the Haouz.

Furthermore, the Pasha was fascinated by Europeans and Americans and often spoiled his guests with fancy meals and expensive gifts. He went seeking forgiveness from Sultan Sidi Mohammed, after his return from exile, because of the disgrace he felt from his collaboration with the French Protectorate. El Glaoui died shortly after receiving a pardon in the Kasbah of Telouet on January 23, 1956.

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