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History : When Charlie Chaplin partied at Thami El Glaoui's palace in Marrakesh

Iconic actor Charlie Chaplin visited Morocco in the 50s meeting the country’s most powerful Pasha, Thami El Glaoui. In Tangier, the comic actor has attended a slapstick performance.

Charlie Chaplin shaking hands with Pasha Thami El Glaoui in Marrakech in 1955./Ph. DR
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In the 50s, English comic actor Charlie Chaplin visited Morocco. The famous filmmaker and composer who rose to fame in the era of silent film, was seduced by the charm of the North African Kingdom. During his stay in the country, he roamed Tangier and Marrakesh, where he met fans, well-heeled officials and the Lord of the Atlas, Thami El Glaoui.

Historical records suggest that the man with the small moustache, baggy pants, large shoes and tiny hat journeyed to Morocco in 1955. While in the Kingdom he stayed in the red city, where he was warmly welcomed by its Pasha.

Charlie Chaplin eating Couscous with his hands./Ph. DRCharlie Chaplin eating Couscous with his hands./Ph. DR

Like other famous figures, Charlie Chaplin was attracted to the city by the Villa Taylor, «a spacious property owned by a wealthy New York family situated in the Ville Nouvelle district on the outskirts of the old city walls», as described by the Telegraph.

According to the Guardian, the Villa’s «guest rooms played host to Rita Hayworth and Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt». But after partying at the Taylors of Rhode Island, the British comedian stayed in the city’s most notorious and luxurious hotel. Following the steps of Winston Churchill, Alfred Hitchcock and the Rolling Stones, Chaplin spent his sojourn in the Mamounia.

But Charlie, known as Charlot in Morocco, couldn’t leave the city of Marrakesh without being received by its powerful Pasha, who reportedly valued cinematography and art.

At El Glaoui's palace

Indeed, Chaplin met Thami El Glaoui, and shook his hand in a black and white photo. According to the BBC, El Glaoui who once attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Churchill's invitation «had a sprawling palace in Marrakesh, the Dar el-Glaoui, where he held lavish banquets and entertained Charlie Chaplin».

In Dar El Glaoui, Charlie Chaplin benefited from the Pasha’s generosity and hospitality. This was explained by Vanity Fair in a 2015 article on Marrakesh. According to the American magazine, El Glaoui «provided a respectable level of elegance» for his guests, including the British comic actor.

«His Majesty the Pasha (…) spared no expense on entertainment for his visitors : Fine wine, hashish, opium, jewelry and Berber girls (and boys)».

Vanity Fair

Charlie Chaplin and Bachir Skiredj

Charlie Chaplin’s next destination in the Kingdom was Tangier, where he had a lot of fun witnessing how famous his art was in North Africa.  

Speaking to Medi 1 radio, Moroccan actor and comedian Bachir Skiredj recalled his meeting with his «hero, Charlot». «Chaplin was invited to lunch by the city’s governor at the time, Abdellah Guennoun», said Skiredj.

«I was at my place when someone knocked on my door urging me to grab my suitcase and costumes and head to the governor’s place for a surprise», he recalled. Indeed, the Moroccan artist who was known in Tangier for perfectly imitating the British star went to Guennoun’s house to realize that he will perfom in front of his icon.

«I wore my Charlie costume did my steps and imitated him. He was looking at me and laughing his heart out. He couldn’t believe the fact that in Tangier there is a boy who could do this», he proudly declared.

Skiredj had lunch with Charlie Chaplin and months later he received the artist’s hat and stick as a present.  

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