Moroccan diplomats #16 : Abdelkrim Ragoun, from Tetouan to Constantinople

Sent by sultan Mohammed ben Abdellah to the Ottoman Empire, Abdelkrim Ragoun did not return from Constantinople empty-handed. The diplomat brought a valuable gift to the sultan.

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In 1766, Alaouite sultan Moulay Mohammed ben Abdellah, known as Mohammed III, appointed Abdelkrim Ragoun as Morocco’s ambassador to modern-day Turkey. The diplomat was sent to the Ottoman court to voice the sultan’s solidarity with the Islamic empire, following the Russo-Turkish war.

But before becoming Morocco’s emperor, Mohammed III who was appointed in 1748 as governor of Marrakech, was one of the Kingdom’s first sultans to favor Rabat as a capital for Morocco.

A letter of solidarity

When Mohammed III ascended the throne in 1757, he made sure to establish good diplomatic relations with the Western powers, including the Ottoman Empire and the United States of America.

He sent several ambassadors and envoys to Europe and neighboring countries. «Sultan Sidi Mohammed sent envoys to Sweden, England and Constantinople. He tasked his ambassador with missions that focused on bringing battleships and gunpowder», wrote Roger Coindreau in his book «Les Corsaires de Salé» (Salé’s corsairs, Eddif, 2006).

Following the same strategy, the Alaouite sultan opted for Abdelkrim Ragoun in 1766. The latter was a distinguished and trusted man from Tetouan, who was sent to the court of Ottoman Sultan Mustapha III.

According to an article published by Arabic-language magazine Al Bayan, Mohammed III responded by this appointment to «gifts sent by Mustapha III with Taher Ben Abdesslam Slaoui and Taher Bennai Rbati».

There are other versions of the story regarding the reasons why Abdelkrim Ragoun was sent to Turkey. An article published by Maroc Hebdo in 1997, indicates that «Rais Abdelkrim Ragoun’s diplomatic mission to the Ottomans in 1766 was meant to express solidarity with the Turks, who suffered from an armed conflict with the Russians».

Rais Abdelkrim Ragoun Tetouani arrived in Constantinople, carrying a royal message that showed sultan Mohammed III’s solidarity with the Ottoman Empire. The ambassador spent one year in the Turkish capital before returning to Morocco. He was even «particularly happy with his mission», says Roger Coindreau.

A valuable gift

In 1777, Abdelkrim Ragoun Tetouani did not return to Morocco empty-handed. Mustapha II decided to send the Moroccan sultan a battleship.

«Rais Abdelkrim Ragoun Tetouani (…) brought with him a battleship loaded with canons mortars, masts, anchors, sails, cables, ropes, barrels and other naval equipment», said Roger Coindreau.

The Ottoman Sultan also sent a group of experts who could help Moroccans use the equipment and master naval tactics.

Unfortunately, history kept little records about Abdelkrim Ragoun Tetouani as well as other ambassadors. But one thing is certain, he is, along with Hadj El Khiyat (sent to Turkey in 1761), Tahar Ben Abdeslam Slaoui and Tahar Bennani Rbati (sent circa 1765), were two diplomats that managed to stabilize the tumultuous relationship between Morocco and the Ottoman Empire.

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