Telouet and the Glaoui

To gain more support for the French protectorate in Morocco, the overseeing government searched for the fearless Berber tribes who would be willing to help their cause. The leader they found was none other than the proud and powerful governor of Marrakesh, Thami el Glaoui. Known as the “Lion of the Atlas,” he and his followers fought against the Sultan’s 1944 manifesto demanding independence from France.

Most agree that the spiraling effect of the Sultan’s words kept the French pre-occupied while dissidence grew. Strikes led to riots and angry demonstrations against the French spread like wildfire. However, in 1953, el Glaoui and other leaders from the French-occupied territories knew that they would have to force the Sultan out of his position in order to keep their territory protected.

The French were no match even with the aid of their strong-willed Berber counterparts. By the time the fight for independence was over, el Glaoui and his family’s estate were left in ruins. The remainder and a sign of his greatness can still be seen in the village of Telouet, which was from where Glaoui was able to control his fighters, have meetings with the French, and keep his family secure. From this position, his family had controlled the caravan routes over the centuries, which had given them the money and power to oversee what might be considered a small dynasty.

Located near the mountain massif outside of Marrakesh and on the 4×4 path to Ait Ben Haddou, the Telouet Kasbah remains in a distraught state; rubble that once detailed the splendor of the areas prestige. For travelers who want to visit the area, you can hire a local guide who will probably speak passable English – enough at least to give you an idea of what once was, while the parts or rooms still intact outlines the immensity of its fortified walls. The Telouet or Glaoui kasbah, as it is sometimes referred, was housed a gigantic reception room and a balcony area from which his wealthy and prominent guests would be invited to dinner, along with a horse war-time demonstration known as fantasia.

For travelers who are traveling by themselves, you can take road P31; best traveled by in a 4×4 and driven by someone with a keen sense of direction, as the path isn’t as well labeled as it might be. Following the Tizi-n-Tichka pass, you be able to follow a narrow road that will go onward for kilometers. About 20 kilometers (12 miles) inward, you’ll be able to spot the Kasbah in its half-ruined state off of the road.

Only when Glaoui decided to serve the French rather than the sultan did his trouble began. Although his Berber people backed his moves, he would pay dearly and lose his seat forever as one of the main leaders of Morocco. Since the French left Morocco in 1956 and the Glaoui family was exiled, the town has been left in disrepair. For travelers that have the time and who are exploring Morocco’s great past, then the Andalusia-styled rooms (some of the only that remain) are worth a visit. A local guide can add to the flavor of the experience, but visiting well versed in Telouet’s history adds another dimension to Morocco’s magic.