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El Glaoui: the Pasha of Marrakesh


T’hami el Glaoui, Pasha of Marrakesh during the French Protectorate, was the last great southern tribal leader, a shrewd supporter of colonial rule (see The Glaoui) and personal friend of Winston Churchill. Cruel and magnificent in equal measure, he was a spectacular party-giver in an age where rivals were not lacking. At the extraordinary difas or banquets held at the Dar el Glaoui for his Western friends, “nothing”, as Gavin Maxwell wrote, “was impossible.” Hashish and opium were freely available, and “to his guests T’hami gave whatever they wanted, whether it might be a diamond ring, a present of money in gold, or a Berber girl or boy from the High Atlas”.

As a despot, and agent of colonial rule, he was so hated that, on his death in 1956, a mob looted the palace, destroying its fittings and the cars in its garages, and lynching any of his henchmen that they found. However, passions have burnt out over the years, and the family has been rehabilitated. One of T’hami’s sons, Glaoui Abdelssadak, rose to high rank in the Moroccan civil service and became vice president of Gulf Oil.

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