Killing El Glaoui symbolically

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
This article is about the lot of the beautiful kasbas of Telouet, Tifoultoute and
Tamddakht. These kasbas were built when El Glaoui was the effective king og Morocco
under the French colonization and some of them were even build before that. I am trying
to explore how the relationship between El Glaoui as a traitor and the Moroccan regine
has affected our modern history through the 'natural' destruction of the works of art left
by El Glaoui.
Does not this symbolize a will to kill ElGlaoui symbolically after his biological death?

Submitted: August 04, 2009

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Submitted: August 04, 2009

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Killing El Glaoui symbolically

Morocco is one these very rare lucky countries to have a diverse, old and very charming historical heritage. This was the result of three very rare elements to find in the same country: geography, history and a unique people.

Yet, our Moroccan heritage is suffering from decadence, nonchalance and disinterest from the Moroccan officials who see Kasbas ( castle in Berber) crumbling. Centuries old houses are being sold at a flea market price and a lot of natural history is being destroyed by ignorant people who do not understand the historical value of this rare heritage. Being Moroccan and witnessing this loss, I decided to write this article about some places that are full of of symbolism in both our past and modern history (both positive and negative) but which are falling apart and being pillaged by treasure hunters whose only concern is finding the most precious historical rare artifacts to export.

I will explore the political explanation and symbolism of letting the Kasbas of Telouet, Tamddakht and Tifoultoute fall to ruins while other places with less history, less importance and that had barely any contribution to the Moroccan history – if any- being restored and millions being spent on their renovation. Cannot we talk about a political deliberate policy from the government or the Moroccan political polity to send to oblivion some treasures of our history because the people who built them were traitors ? What are the messages that are being sent to 'others' when they see the legacy of El Glaoui destroyed by rain, sun and human looting?

The Kasba of Telouet used to be a center of power, the bastion of Elbasha ( the Caid) of Marrakesh. It was built in a very strategic place on the Caravan road to the desert in the nexus that forms the link between Marrakesh and Tambuktu. The Glaoua tribe were the masters of the High Atlas and controlled Tizi-n-Tishka which was/is vital to trade and commerce. The Kasba played a very decisive role in modern Morocco because Thami El Glaoui grew up there and later used it as his center of power to help the French pacify the south of Morocco in the 1920s. It used to be a work of art, embellished with silk decorations, beautiful ceramics, colorful roofs, golden and silver knobs. Its huge guest rooms reminded people of the Arabian Nights stories because of their unbelievable character. It is just unbelievable to imagine silver and gold silverware used in the Kasba while the majority of the country was struggling to survive. El Glaoui had a gulf course in the middle of the High Atlas of Morocco in early 1930s. That was the life of the Kasba then. It functioned like a world in its own. Hundreds of servants, secretaries, writers, judges were serving the makhzen (authorities in Moroccan Arabic) for free.

All these people were not serving El Glaoui only, they were also serving the order and the regime that was put in place by the French protectorate. Was it fair that El Glaoui exploited people to lead this posh life? Of course not but that is a moralistic judgement that doe not apply to historical events. Is not it more immoral to let this heritage fade away deliberately and to destroy anything that reminds Moroccan of this dark/ bright part of their history?

The Kasba is ruins today. It is destroyed and a lot of people do not know what it used to be. It is suffering in silence because some people need and want to silence the collective memory. There are people who want to erase this part of the Moroccan history from our collective experience. That Kasba was built by our grandparents and the oppressed and poor people who did not have any power nor money to offer to the corrupt administrators of El Basha to avoid being called on service.

The symbolism of this symbolic destruction of the Kasba of Telouet is very interesting to analyze. It is simply sending a message to all the powerful people in the country that they will not only be called traitors but their memory will not also be respected if they ever try to compete with the kings. Only kings could have the kind of palaces El Glaoui had. therefore younger generations are deprived of knowing about a person who did everything to compete with the kings.

It is very important to understand that in the customs of kings, the unsaid is always deeper than the 'said'. The hints are supposed to to be sufficient to make people understand everything without the kings being needing to make an effort to explain. The relationship of a king to his subjects being like that of a sufi master to his disciples. What is happening to El Glaoui's Kasba in Telouet goes beyond the life of El Glaoui himself to symbolize a continued disgrace of Thami even after his death in 1956 some months only after the 'independence' of Morocco. The physical death is not sufficient to punish this guy who got out of control.

The continued disgrace is also destroying the Kasbs of Tifoultoute and Tamddakht. Way less important in their political importance and artistic value than the Kasba of Telouet but they all carry the spirit of the same man, the same history and the same heritage. That is why they are neglected until they totally disappear.

All museums all over the world are very happy to exhibit with a lot of nostalgia their countries histories. People always believe that without that bloody, unjust and even inglorious history; they would not be able to be who they are today. It is the same with our history, as Moroccans. Until we learn how to respect our collective memory and consider the depth and importance of our history as a collective experience, we will always continue making the same errors. We will always miss the appointment with history because we will continue living vicariously through symbolism and a lot of times symbolism lengthens the life of despotism and establishes the reign of the powerful that do not need to know that a person used to be as powerful as they are or even more.

Look at the Kasba of El Glaoui and you can maybe see the force of symbolism and the presence of time dimension in killing symbolically the other and erasing them from the collective memory even if the price is the destruction rare gems of original Moroccan architecture.

El Glaoui collaborated with France to colonize or 'protect' Morocco but what is the problem of the little kids that were born a hundred years later? Why should they be deprived of knowing that that guy exploited people and committed all the atrocities you can imagine but he also did a lot of positive things among which his palaces and Kasbas that should be a Moroccan public heritage.


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