Thami El Glaoui, the Pasha who led an ostentatious lifestyle

Named Pasha of Marrakech, Thami El Glaoui was fascinated by the Western culture and lived his life, throwing extravagant parties in his Marrakech residence. He treated his European guests to lavish banquets and offered them expensive gifts.

Thami El Glaoui in his Marrakech office./Ph. DR
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He was the Pasha of Marrakesh, the right hand of French Resident-General Louis Lyautey, and a great friend of foreign figures and politicians. In his Marrakech residence, Thami El Glaoui threw lavish parties to celebrate his love for the western culture and Europeans.

But before gaining power in the country that was colonized by the French, Thami was the brother of Madani El Glaoui who headed the Glaoua tribe and held good relations with sultan Abdelhafid.

A powerful governor

The El Glaoui brothers rose to fame in 1893, when Madani El Glaoui «saved the sultan from a blizzard and starvation after he got stuck in the mountains on a tax-gathering expedition», wrote the BBC.

Rewarded by Abdelhafid, the two brothers were granted «a 77-mm Krupp cannon», they used to control the region and gain power starting from their home town Telouet.

«As a consequence, the French reaffirmed Madani’s appointment of his brother Thami as pasha of Marrakech», recalled Trudy Ring, Noelle Watson, Paul Schellinger in their book «Middle East and Africa: International Dictionary of Historic Places», (Routledge, Mar 5, 2014).

Once appointed as the governor of Marrakech, Thami gained the trust of Louis Lyautey, who decided to rely on his wickedness to conduct a pacification campaign in southern Morocco.

Lavish parties and expensive gifts

After his brother died, El Glaoui took the lead of the Glaoua tribe, under the instructions of the French general and became the Lord of the Atlas. A lord that showed so much interest in the West, in addition to his political affiliation to the French, and ruled Marrakech on that basis.

His preferences and lifestyle were translated into a series of luxurious parties he held in his Marrakech palace, dubbed Dar El Glaoui.

«In his years as Pasha, El Glaoui maintained an ostentatious lifestyle driven by a fascination with Europeans», wrote the three historians, indicating that he used to treat his guests «to large banquets … and expensive gifts».

«He and his entourage, including a portion of his harem, often traveled to Europe».

Trudy Ring, Noelle Watson, and Paul Schellinger

But in his palace, El Glaoui received high ranked figures from the West, including British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin. In the 1920s, he decided to build a Golf course for the sake of his guests.

«He felt the Golf course was essential for entertaining his many European friends», explained the same source.

Queen Elizabeth's coronation

According to the BBC, El Glaoui was invited by Churchill to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 «hoping to be knighted». In London, «he presented the new queen with spectacular gifts». However, the Queen did not really like El Glaoui as all his lavish gifts were refused and the «knighthood never happened».

To finance his extravagant lifestyle, El Glaoui demanded huge yearly income which he secured through «monopolies on the Southern markets for olives, hemp and oranges», wrote Ring, Watson, and Schellinger.

«El Glaoui’s insatiable quest for money led him even to violate the tomb of an Islamic saint in Marrakech by stealing its treasures».

Trudy Ring, Noelle Watson, and Paul Schellinger

Drought and the drop in agricultural production did not stop the Lord of the Atlas from wanting more money. He insisted to receive the same revenue from corps to finance his «costly venture».

However, in 1956, the Europe-oriented Pasha fell into disgrace when Morocco broke free from France. He was regarded as a traitor after he collaborated with the French to oust sultan Mohammed V. He died in his Telouet castle the same year after he made headlines for years.

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