Last Pasha and Lord of the Atlas

Time and events around “Dar El Bacha,” was difficult for the national unity of Morocco in the turbulent time of the French protectorate. The palace, built in the early twentieth century, was the residence of Thami El Glaoui who, for mutual benefit, brought decisive support to the French “resident” Lyautey based in Marrakech. As a result, in December 1950 El Glaoui was named the highly prestigious ‘Pasha of Marrakech’ by Sultan Mohammed V.
As an influential voice in French Morocco, El Glaoui asked Mohammed V (the Sultan) to no longer listen to the Moroccan nationalist party “Istiqlal” who were in favor of independence. However after an unfortunate misunderstanding involving the brother of Thami, the El Glaoui family showed itself insolent towards the sultan at a hearing and were forbidden from the palace grounds!

Great disharmony ensued from the rash action of the Sultan that in February 1953, El Glaoui met twenty Caïds (tax collectors) who signed a petition calling for the resignation of the Sultan. The 14th and 15th August, Mohammed V and Crown Prince Moulay Hassan were arrested and sent into exile in Madagascar.

Reform placed on Morocco by the increasingly disparate French fretting about their ungovernable colony, led to Mohammed V and Moulay Hassan’s return from exile, where he was officially recognised as the returned Sultan. Kneeling in submission to the true Sultan, Thami was forgiven for his past mistakes and died shortly after with much of his wealth confiscated by the state.

For a time the most powerful man in Morocco and one of the richest in the world, El Glaoui cast a imposing figure and influenced much of Morocco. History and culture runs deep in the streets of the Marrakshi medina. Our traditional Marrakech Riads are located in the heart of the old town, the intimate Riad Papillon is just a few steps from the Glaoui’s Palace in what is now the most fashionable part of the Medina boasting antique shops and restaurants in North Africa.

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