Elevating to 2,260 metres mountain pass of Tizi n’ Tichka, leaving behind the hustle and bustle of Marrakech. A gateway to the High Atlas Mountains, great Marrakech plains and the Sahara Desert. Passing the ‘snake like mountain pass’ you enter the historical past of a territory that was governed by the Glaoua family; one of the strongest Berber tribe of the Atlas Mountains. Every tribe has its own enemies and the El Glaoua gained a military advantage of being ideally positioned in the heart of the mountains and occupying a stronghold to the Tizi n’ Tichka and Tiz n’ Telouet mountain passes. In 1893, the reigning Alounite Sultan Moulay Hassan embarked on a journey to the South of Morocco collecting taxes, an expedition that was short lived as the sultan and his army were stranded in a blizzard and only rescued by the El- Glaoua brothers. The sultan in return presented a working 77mm Kruppe cannon as a gift of gratitude for the rescue. The only weapon outside the Imperial army of Morocco that became a familiar sight to deter enemies beyond the walls of Telouet Kasbah.

Road to Telouet
Beyond Marrakech and travelling through the Atlas Mountains. Passing Tizi n’ Tichka, following the ‘snake-like’ mountain pass (Top left). Off the beaten track, a diversion leads to Telouet village. Salt deposits are sighted during your travel (Bottom left)

The historical past of the house of Glaoua is witnessed visiting Telouet. Castle or Kasbah, a fortified structure stands on an altitude of 5,900 feet. Every so often, referred to ‘the palace of a thousand and one nights. Its design and build ‘mirrors’ the stalagmite theme of the Saadian tombs in Marrakech city. At present, the crumbling walls of the Kasbah Telouet provide evidence of the occupancy of the El Glaoua family throughout the 18th-20th century. Historically, the Glaoua tribe was ruled by a woman during a time when women held position of authority and power in Berber culture. The legacy was passed to Si Mohammed Ben Hammou, commonly known as El-Tibibt; meaning the sparrow. After his death in 1888, his wealth was inherited by his eldest son, Si El Madani with his younger brother T’hami El Mezouari as his assistant in his political regime. The brothers who had the possession of the 77mm Kruppe cannon at Telouet. Under the instruction of Caid Madani El Glaoui, appointed in 1859, Telouet was re- constructed adjacent to the old Kasbah at the same site in Telouet. A structure built with terracotta and a grand green tiled roof.

Crumbling walls of Kasbah Telouet
Kasbah Telouet –throughout the centuries

The river of salt, Oud Mellah and the salt mines in the locality of Telouet provided wealth to the family. The providers of the valuable community of salt to the camel caravans from Sudan and Mauritania in the 19th Century. The Kasbah of Telouet glorified the wealth and important statue of the El-Glaoua family. Walking through hallways, high panels of silks and brocades from Lyons, France are displayed. The hallways are lined with carpets exported as far as Iran and Afghanistan. The doors and windows manufactured with the finest cedar wood and the locks of the door decorated with silver. Raise the eyes in the dining hall, to witness the artistic expression of a boat, covering the ceiling wall. The harem designed in Italian style

Interior of Kasbah Telouet
Interior of Kasbah Telouet

A room with a view, a window outlooks the ground of the Kasbah and Telouet village. In days gone past, a fantasia sequence of events accompanied with traditional music of A’wach were common happenings in the life of the family. These happenings were witnessed by notable foreign guests; Sir Winston Churchill visited the Kasbah Telouet in 1945 driven there in a classic Bentley car.

A Kasbah or Ksar provided living quarters for the tribal families; they construction were built around a community or a ‘mini city’. Furthermore, provides a resting place for weary travellers for the caravans from neighbouring Sub Sahara Africa countries, travelling far as Timbuctoo. Kasbahs were built on the trading route for traders. Huge structures built on a hill to deter enemies from neighbouring tribes. A protective covering for the local people under an attack. A prison and dungeon for those who were captured. The daily assembly of men, forming the law court that formed the local government.

‘Every family has its blood feuds’

The death of El-Madani in 1918, gave the expansion of the Glaoua empire under the new instruction of his younger brother T’hami. In English, he was known as the ‘Lords of the Atlas and in general terms as the Pasha of Marrakech. Overall, becoming the second king maker of Glaou, violating Islamic traditions as he inherited the empire bypassing the rightful ownership of the sons of his elder brother. The chief Berber, T’hami consolidated the whole vast Glaoui empire that extended from Marrakech to the Sahara Desert. Every Kasbah after passing the high mountain pass of Tizi is evidence of an empire ruled by the Lord of Atlas. The dynasty ended after his death in 1956 and his wealth seized by the state.