Sidi Amar, the fabulous fate of a Moroccan clan

By reviving at the end of 2021 the story of Mauro Prosperi, runner of the Marathon Des Sables, who was lost in 1994 due to a sandstorm and who was found alive ten days later in Algeria, Netflix has sometimes dusted off story of a fabulous fate for a Moroccan filiation.

After getting lost in the desert of southeastern Morocco, this Italian policeman and pentathlete, 39 years old at the time, fell over a tomb with intriguing architecture, consisting of a watchtower, a small chamber built of adobe and a whitewashed mausoleum with a green tile roof, all in the middle of a monochromatic and frightening desert.

It is near this building engulfed among the giant dunes that Mauro Prosperi tried in vain to be discovered by rescue helicopters by burning his sleeping bag. He is suspended from the ceiling of the mausoleum and finds in a colony of bats the food that is able to keep him alive when his stock of water and food is depleted. He even tried, still without success, to kill himself on the spot by cutting his veins, but his blood quickly clotted due to dehydration.

Nevertheless, none of the media that covered this story, including the episode of the Netflix series “Losers”, “Sidi Âmar”, cites the name of the wali buried in this desolate and hostile place that is not far from the border. The East. According to Haj Abderrahman, one of the descendants of Sidi Amar, he is an idrissid sheik of filiation and Merinid wali of Drâa in the first half of the 13th century.

Died in 1249, his family decided to send artisans and materials from the capital Fez to build his mausoleum at a time when the Merinid dynasty had not yet completely replaced the almohads. This shows the place occupied by this character in his family and in Draadalen.

A once fertile and lush desert

If the place where Sidi Amar rests for more than 770 years is invaded by sand today, that was not the case then. Haj Abderrahman Al-Ghafri, named after Sidi Amar’s father, Ghfir Ibn Alhassan, whose family tree indicates a filiation going up to Ali Ibn Abi Talib, son-in-law of the Prophet Mohamed (S), reveals to us that this region was a fertile and lush valley , where the Arab Zair tribes lived as well as the Amazigh Sanhaja tribes.

According to the travel diary “Ar-Rihla Darâiya Al-Koubra”, Draa’s Great Journey, a work written in Arabic and published in 2008 by El-Mehdi Ben Ali Salhi, the Zaïr tribes lived in a Ksar somewhere between M’hamid El-Ghizlane and Sidi Amar’s grave. The ruins of this Ksar, which bears the name of this Arab tribe and which the author visited, still exist and are considered monuments, testifying to a period when Zaïr stayed in Drâa before migrating south of the capital Rabat. The name Zaïr has even been attributed to this large landlocked area between Drâa’s elbow and the border.

In these surroundings, Sidi Amar had built his zaouïa and his library and exploited the flourishing that Draa experienced as the epicenter of a civilization that connected Timbuktu and Tindouf with Draa and Tafilalet, then to Fez and Marrakech.

Thanks to his descendants living in several cities and regions of the kingdom, including Haouz, Casablanca and Rabat, and especially in M’hamid El-Ghizlane, Zagora and Ouarzazate, Sidi Amar’s history is not hidden. This family benefited from several royal decrees of respect, Daha’ir Tawkir, which the Alawite kings offered Chorfa. The work of the great voyage in Drâa cites three, signed by Sultan Mohamed Ibn Youssef, just as the family has another similar decree signed by Sultan Hassan I from 1873.

A hiking story

The story of this family could have been less captivating, without a fact that gave it an intercontinental dimension. Youssef, the sixth child of Sidi Amar, one day decides to emigrate to the historic country of Cham, which currently includes the countries of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine. According to the sheikh’s descendants, he thus fulfilled a wish of his father, who wanted one of his children to live there. “If only one of you could go to Cham,” he said to them one day.

Perhaps Sidi Amar would thus encourage one of his sons to follow in the footsteps of several Sufi masters who had taken the path of the East at some point in their lives. Abou Al-Hassan Chadhili (13th century), disciple of Sidi Abdesslam Ben Mchich, is just one example of a large number of mystics who left the Maghreb for Machreq.

According to the book Â’ilat Al-Ghafri, produced by a committee chaired by Sheikh Ali Ibn Ôda, a third edition of which was printed in Gaza in 2020, the descendants of Youssef ibn Âmar settled in Syria, where they settled well by “exemplary behavior” and numerous works of benevolence and charity “. In Damascus, the memorial plaque for the New Mosque, a monument built in 1387, to this day indicates the name of Souleiman Al-Ghafri, merchant and descendant of Sidi Âmar, as reported in the work “Book of Islamic Monuments in Damascus”, quoted. by Ali Ibn Ôda. In addition to Damascus, Al-Ghafri also lives in Homs, Idleb, Hama, Deraa and Nebek, where an undated mosque still bears the name Mohamed Al-Ghafri, whom the people of the city recognize as “a pious and blessed man”.

From Syria, part of the family then migrated to Palestine, especially to the Senjel village of Ramallah in the West Bank, then to Jordan and Gaza, where Sheikh Ali Ibn Ôda, the dean of Al-Ghafri, came from. In a document dating back to 1963, Al-Ghafri elders in Gaza signed a charter dedicated to strengthening the ties within the family, numbering about 2,800 people, spread across twelve branches. This figure, which dates from 2020 and relates only to the Gaza Strip, is taken from a few censuses conducted by the Al-Ghafri Council, elected in 1993, and which also includes twelve divisions representing Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia -Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

This council gave rise to a real organization equipped with an exhaustive code of honor that advocated mutual help and visits between relatives (Silat Ar-Rahim), and even went so far as to establish rules of conduct in case of conflict between members and with others . All family members in the mentioned countries are also obliged to pay contributions to the council, which is supported by a youth council, also elected, organized in eight commissions and equipped with a charter. Al-Ghafri in Gaza seems to be the spearhead of this family organization, which strengthens Morocco’s connection with occupied Palestine.

In accordance with Council directives, visits between the various branches of the family have been organized over the last few decades. This is how Sheikh Ali Ibn Ôda reports having visited the 12 branches of Al-Ghafri in Syria and Jordan in 2009 and before that Morocco in 2006. Haj Abderrahman says that we in turn have visited his relatives in the east at least five times. Despite the distance, the memory of Sidi Amar thus seems to encourage his descendants to meet so often to invoke his famous memory.

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