Famous Cities in Morocco Series (Episode 9 of 13): Taliouine
By: Claire Boyle / Arab America Contributing Writer
Morocco has so many interesting towns and cities as well as beautiful landmarks. From the astonishing city of Casablanca to Marrakech, Fes, and Rabat; Morocco has everything one might hope to experience. These places boast historical monuments, such as the Hassan II Mosque, the Jemaa el-Fnaa, and many others. In this article series, we will be featuring cities and landmarks in Morocco that are historically and culturally significant. In this ninth installment, we will be traveling to Taliouine. There, we will learn about an important natural feature and an exquisite piece of historical architecture. These are the Saffron Spice Fields and the Glaoui Kasbah of Taliouine. Finally, we will learn about the history of the cities themselves as well as their associated landmarks.
Historical Synopsis and Background of Taliouine:
Taliouine is a small village in southern Morocco. Marrakech is the closest major city to Taliouine. It is located within the Anti Atlas Mountains, one of Morocco’s largest mountain ranges. There is not much known about the history of Taliouine except for its major export crop of which is saffron. The region is very hot, dry, and it has an arid and desert-like climate. For most people who live in Taliouine, life is not easy. The conditions are harsh due to a lack of modern amenities and employment and crumbling structures. Nevertheless, there is one bright spot for the villagers which is the beautiful product they grow known as saffron.
The village’s population is tiny. The 2004 Moroccan Census showed that there were only about 6,000 people who live there. As mentioned previously, we do not know much about the history of Taliouine except that it has been inhabited by Berber tribes. It still continues to be so to this day, as the most spoken language is the “Berber variety of Taselhit”. There are not many historical timelines of Taliouine available. We know that Thami El Glaoui, the leader of a prominent family, moved to the area to become the ‘Lord of the Atlas’. His brother ran the Aglawou tribe in Southern Morocco. The pair also established the “Glaoui Kasbah,” a desert castle in the region.
Historical Landmarks—Saffron Spice Fields and the Glaoui Kasbah of Taliouine:
Saffron Spice Fields:
The Saffron Spice Fields are a natural source of beauty and bliss in Taliouine, Morocco. The village of Taliouine is one of the world’s most prolific producers of Saffron. It is made by a highly laborious process as well. Saffron is composed of a variety of crocus flowers, and they are native to this region in Morocco. Thus, Saffron is the world’s most expensive and luxurious spice. The people must also pick Saffron by hand. There is no machine that can do so because it must be done very carefully. Otherwise, the harvesters will miss the threads which make up the spice. Only the stems can be sold and exported throughout the world. The crocus flowers have what is called the ‘stigma, the female part of the flower’, which is where the threads are harvested.
These flowers are fragile. Typically, people pick the plants early in the morning before it gets too hot or uncomfortable. Most of the time, the cooperatives (co-ops), grow the flowers, and this work means that the residents of the region have employment. Women are the most frequent staffers because the area is aiming to narrow marginalization within the community. After the threads are laboriously picked, they are dried in the sun. The threads are subsequently packaged and sold. In order to understand why saffron is so expensive, it takes a total of “115 threads to make 1 gram of the spice,”.
So, what is saffron used for? The so-called “red gold” threads are frequently used as a dyeing agent for “fabric and perfume, in traditional medicine and in some religious ceremonies, [and it is a food ingredient in numerous dishes including] biryani, risotto, paella, and among others.” Finally, after the saffron flowers are picked, dried, sold, and distributed, you will find them throughout the world in all their glory.
Glaoui Kasbah of Taliouine:
The Glaoui Kasbah, also known as the Taliouine Kasbah, is one of Morocco’s most famous desert fortresses. It is located in the Taliouine Zagmouzen Valley. This kasbah dates to before Thami El Glaoui, the prominent leader of a Moroccan family who assumed control of the town of Taliouine in the mid-1900”s. El Glaoui invaded one of the surrounding regions of Taliouine and took control of this fortress. He then proceeded to build the kasbah and turn it into his administrative headquarters as well as some quarters for a vicar that he brought along with him to the area.
The Kasbah happens to be in a very strategic location because it overlooks the valley. El Glaoui used it to maintain and watch the town’s tribes who might have tried to stage a rebellion against him. At this time, all of Morocco was a French protectorate. Despite the years of oppressive and colonial rule, El Glaoui and many of his family were supportive of France. The kasbah was built with “adobe bricks, a stone foundation”, and the structure has numerous intricate décor and beautiful exterior details.
Since Morocco became independent in the 1950s, the Kasbah has been part of the “Muslim Institute of Taroudant,”. It is now the site of many homes within the region of Taliouine. It is now a part of the exquisite sites and sounds of the village of Taliouine, adding to the interesting desert-scapes and the beautiful purple saffron flowers in the area.
Thank you for joining me on this ninth episode of the series “Famous Cities in Morocco”. This time, we journeyed to the wondrous city of Taliouine. In my opinion, it is one of the most stunning places on earth thanks to its natural beauty and its architectural wonders! Stay tuned for the next installment featuring the amazing city of Chefchaouen! I hope you got to learn a little bit more about the majestic landscapes and landmarks of Morocco. If you are ever in Taliouine, I highly recommend you visit the city and the exquisite Saffron Spice Fields. Take a walk around the Glaoui Kasbah of Taliouine, and you will not be disappointed!
This is the ninth installment in a series of thirteen focusing on cities in Morocco with an emphasis on its history and famous landmarks. Each article will feature a historical synopsis about the city and 2 to 3 significant landmarks. Keep an eye out for the next article about Chefchaouen coming soon. Thank you for reading!
To read episode 8 which features the city of Agadir, the Souk el Had, and the Argan Biosphere Reserve, please click here!
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