Tinghir and Todra valley.

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History of Tinghir and Todra Valley

From the city of Todra knocking currency in the 8th century until the recent creation of the Province of Tineghir or Tinghir, a long and eventful history reminds us of the importance of this town at the foot of the High Atlas and at the crossroads of ancient caravan routes communicating the imperial cities of Morocco to Black Africa.

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Paleo-Berber script.
Paleo-Berber script

Old market of Tinghir.
Old market of Tinghir

Ksar Ait Yala.
Ksar Ait Yala

Shrine in Ksar Ifri.
Palm-grove and shrine

The origins

The establishment of sedentary populations in the Todra Valley is probably related to the culture of the date palm, imported from the Middle East at the beginning of the Christian era. Between these populations there were three main groups: the first, dark skin, is probably the most ancient; the second, composed of Amazigh or Berbers of clear skin, arrived later and imposed their culture and language to the other; finally the third, composed by Jews, came to Morocco in successive waves from the fifth century BC, and even it adopted the Berber language, it retained its monotheistic religion.

From the eighth century, Islam replaced the animistic worship, but Arab culture penetrated very little in this region and even customary law continued to be applied with only some influences of Koranic law. At that time, Todra was a very prosperous city, which based its economy on agriculture, caravan trade, operating silver mines and work of this metal by the Jews. Around 757, it was absorbed by the Kingdom of Sijilmassa, then by that of Fez, as evidenced the coins of Idriss I minted in this area in 788.

Under the Berber dynasties

Subsequently, in 1053, Sijilmassa itself was conquered by the Almoravids before founding their great empire with Marrakech as capital. Todra remained under their domination for a century and then passed to the hands of Almohads. From this period dates the Kitab al Ansab, the oldest text which mentioned the tribes of the area. Among them we find the Ait Todra, the Ait Senan and the Ait Izdegh, present still now in the valley.

After the disintegration of the Empire Almohad, the region fell into hands of the Hafsides from Kairouan and Abdelouadides from Tlemcen before being conquered by the Merinides in 1274. They preserved it until 1331, but they were forced to abandon it because of the pressure of Bedouin tribes Beni Maquil that had come in the meantime from Egypt. These Arab nomads, to which were attached a number of Arabized Berbers, settled in the valleys of Ziz and Dra and submitted at tributes this of Todra, without however impose in it nor its culture or language.

In its passage through the country in 1511, Hassan Ibn El Ouazane (also known as Leo Africanus) wrote: "Todra is a small province around the river of the same name, abounding in dates, grapes and figs, containing about four castles and ten villages, inhabited by poor people who are mostly laborers, tanners and leather curriers". The term "castles" probably reflects the idea of Ksour or small walled cities, as the word "villages" is to be douars: clusters of tents or huts without strengthening. He did not write the names of the four Ksour, but we can imagine that Tinghir was one of them.

Under Saadian and Alaouites

In 1537 Todra valley was conquered by the Saadian, a dynasty born in the Sous and that later would found a great empire. It reached its maxim prosperity under the reign of Ahmed el Mansour, but at his death in 1603 the country fell into anarchy.

Moulay Chrif and Moulay Rachid.

From that moment, the Todra and other pre-Saharan valleys were the scene of endless struggles between different forces: the marabout Abu Mahali from Sijilmassa (died in 1614), Moulay Sherif, the Zaoua Semlalia from Iligh (Anti-Atlas), the Zaoua Dila from Ait Ishak (Middle Atlas), the Confederation of Ait Atta tribes from Jebel Saghro and a new confederation of tribes from the eastern High Atlas born in 1645 under the leadership of the Zaoua Dila, the Ait Yafelmane.

Moulay Cherif managed to defeat the other forces and was proclaimed Sultan of Tafilalet, but, at his death in 1659, succession problems led his son Moulay Rachid to seek refuge in Todra, while his other son Moulay Mohamed triumphed in Rissani.

Moulay Ismail
Moulay Ismail

From 1693, Moulay Ismail submitted the whole territory, after overcoming strong resistance from the nomadic tribes of the High Atlas with the help of Todra, Ferkla and Gheris people. Subsequently, Todra was under the control of the governor of Rissani.

But after the death of Moulay Ismail in 1727 began the fight for possession of pre-Saharan valleys between the Ait Atta, the Ait Yafelmane and Alaouite State of Fez, which mostly had only a nominal power over this region.

Moulay Slimane.
Moulay Slimane

In 1816 Moulay Slimane arrived with his army and encamped on the hill called Ighir n'Mehalt, near Ksar Tinghir. He managed to submit the valley and collect taxes after a long campaign, and he deported in Meknes all the men of Ksar El Hart n'Iaamine. They would be released a few years later thanks to the intervention of the Zaouia of Ouazzane.

In the same campaign, before arriving at Todra, Moulay Slimane had also obtained the submission of the powerful tribe At Merghad, part of At Yafelmane confederation, and had appointed the caid Beni Hia from the Middle Atlas, which will subsequently establish himself into the Ksar El Khorbat Oujdid (Ferkla). Armed with this support from the Makhzen, the Ait Merghad began in the mid-nineteenth century to conquer many oasis.

Agoudim n'At Yazza.
Agoudim, one of the Ksour Ait Atta

Moulay Hassan.
Moulay Hassan

Then the inhabitants of Todra offered to the Ait Atta some lands uncorked in the low valley and they built there ten Ksour, so that they formed a barrier against attacks from its eastern neighbors.

In one of these Ksour, Tadafalt, spent a night Charles de Foucauld in 1884, after staying at the Jewish quarter of Taouirt n'Imzilen and attending the Monday market of Tinghir. He wrote: "wars, frequent elsewhere, are constant in Todra; so much that no precaution is forgotten: each locality is confined within a narrow perimeter wall and on all sides stand Agueddims [watchtowers]. During the time I was in Taourirt, this Ksar was in war with its neighbor, Ait Ourjdal; daily we fired gunshots; windows and skylights in the houses were blocked; we didn't dare to go up to terraces fearing to serve as a focal point; both localities are so close that, despite the limited scope of arms, they reach each other".

The descendants of the Caid Beni Hia being refused to pay tribute to the sultan, a new expedition in the area was organized by Moulay Hassan in 1893. His army defeated the rebels At Merghad of Ferkla and appointed a new caid. Later he arrived to Todra, where he stood on the same hill Ighir n'Mehalt. He remained there until the total submission of the area and the settlement of tributes.

From there, Moulay Hassan went to Marrakech. In his visit to Telouet, he was very well received by the caid Madani El Glaoui and he granted him the title of Khalifa for Glaoua, Todra and Tafilalet. In base to this appointment, the brothers El Madani and Thami El Glaoui undertook a first shipment to conquest Todra and Tafilalet areas in May 1900, with very limited result.

The Kasbah of El Glaoui in Tinghir in 1919.
The Kasbah of El Glaoui in 1919

Parade in Tinghir in 1919.
Parade of general De Lamothe

Foum el Kous n'Tazoult.
Foum El Kous n'Tazoult

Ighrem Oujdid, near Tinerhir.
Ighrem Oujdid

House of Assou Bassalam in Taghia.
House of Assou Bassalam in Taghia

Resistance to French penetration

The second attempt of domination from the Glaoui began in July 1918, having become meanwhile Thami El Glaoui Pasha of Marrakech and main collaborator of the French protectorate established in 1912. He strongly chastised the Ait Atta of Todra, but without arriving to submit them. But the third attempt was more successful and in January 1919 began the construction of a large Kasbah on the hill Ighir n'Mehalt, for controlling the Ksour that had capitulate.

On February 2 of that year, took place in Tinghir a parade with the presence of General De Lamothe, who had lead the operation from Marrakech. Most village chiefs At Todra swore there the oath of allegiance to the Sultan and protectorate; but the Ait Atta refused to participate and rose up with the support of At Merghad came from Ferkla and other Ait Atta from Tafilalet, who had succeed in throwing out the French army in this area and had create an independent State. The Ksar Tinghir was stormed and looted by Kubaa and, during its return to Ouarzazate, the Army of Glaoui was attacked in Foum El Kous n'Tazoult, fifteen kilometers beyond Tinghir, but without success.

In February 1920, the Todra was invaded again by the Ait Merghad under command of a curious personality called Ba Ali, a Black from Tazzarine region who had managed to control all Ferkla in representation of Belkacem Ngadi, Lord of Tafilalet. He settled in El Khorbat, in the caid Beni Hia house. At Todra, his men plundered many Ksour submitted to the Glaoui, while other, like El Hart n'Iaamine, became their allies.

Thami El Glaoui undertook then his fourth expedition to the Todra, with an army of 8000 soldiers and six mountain guns. Ba Ali tried again to cut him the road at Foum El Kous n'Tazoult, but the guns scared his warriors on July 31, 1920 and chivalry of Glaoui persecuted them to Ait El Fersi. This time, with the appointment of Said Ou Laid Ou Tifnout as Khalifa of Glaoui in Tinghir, the situation was stabilized for a longer period, despite the resistance of the Ait Atta including Illamchane headed by Assou Ou Bassalam, native from Ksar Taghia.

In 1926, twenty families recalcitrant to the ruling of Glaoui were expelled from the Ksar Tinghir and founded a new Ksar called Ighrem Oujdid. To better control them, the representative of Glaoui in the area, Mohadach Ou El Haj Faska, built for himself a big house inside.

In 1927 the resistance became even more active than before, the Kasbah of Glaoui was besieged and in 1929 only Tinghir and ten other surrounding Ksour clung to Khalifa Said Ou Laid Ou Tifnout.

The situation changed with the direct intervention of the French army in 1931. At middle of this year, Taghia n'Illamchane was the only Ksar of Todra to resist still. From there, the men of Assou Ou Bassalam went in 1932 to Jebel Saghro, where they capitulated in March 25, 1933 after the Battle of Bou Gaffer.

The Indigenous Affairs Bureau of Tinerhir.
The Indigenous Affairs Bureau

Protectorate and independence of Morocco

From that moment, Tinghir became the administrative center for the Todra Valley. An Indigenous Affairs Bureau (now the headquarters of the Pasha) was built near the Ksar, as well as some other constructions. Also, the Kasbah of Glaoui was enlarged and a French barracks was born near it, on the top of the hill.

Kasbah of Cheikh Bassou Ou Ali in Tinghir.
Kasbah of Cheikh Bassou Ou Ali

Tinerhir.
Tinghir today

At that time, the Ksar Tinghir had about 300 homes grouped in three areas: Ihartane, Ait Abdellah and Ait El Haj Ali. Between the first two was a Jewish quarter of 70 homes.

In 1944, Sheikh Bassou Ou Ali from Ksar Ait Barra was the first inhabitant to build a dwelling outside the Ksar: the Kasbah transformed today into hotel Tomboctou. Subsequently, other families followed his example. But the great urban development would be much later, when people obtained money through emigration to France from 1970s. Shortly before, Tinghir Jews had left the country like most Moroccan Jews.

Brought to the urban municipality category after absorbing the surrounding Ksour, Tinghir reached 30 000 inhabitants in the 1990s. In 2009, it became the capital of a new Province.

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