Tucked up into the Atlas Mountains near the Amazigh hotbeds of Goulmima and Tinjdad, is a remarkable little village called Aghbalou N’Kerdous. Situated near a year-long creek that provides ample water for crops, the town, despite the altitude, has been thriving for ages. The word “aghbalou,” pronounced with a slight ‘r’ after the ‘a’ so that it sounds like ‘arghbaloo,’ means “water spring” or “source” and Kerdouss seems to be someone’s name.
I’d heard about the village from locals. It sounded idyllic, and it is. Many of them poke of its beauty and of its waterfall, but what piqued my interest the most, was the offhanded reference to there being an abandoned prison there. Near the end of the French occupation of what is now central Morocco, despite their best efforts to control them, the Amazigh areas were notoriously difficult to manage. While Spain fought them in the northern Rif Mountains, the French fought them in the Atlases and the deserts around them. Fiercely independent and self-reliant, the native peoples knew their land best and engaged in many successful guerrilla campaigns.
Throughout the fight for independence, which it won in 1956, many rebel leaders were imprisoned. One such prison was in Aghbalou N’Kerdouss. Due to its isolation and relative inaccessibility, this prison housed some of the prisoners deemed most dangerous. Since much of the fighting was done by Amazigh tribes in their homeland, many resistance fighters who had been captured in the south were housed there.
The prison itself is rather small. It was closed when we arrived. Apparently, there is a man with a key who will let people in, but we were running short of time and daylight, so we opted not to wait for people to find him. Should I travel up there again, and I just might, I’ll be sure to enter if I can.
Near the entrance to the prison is a place commemorating the efforts of the people who fought against the occupiers. Below is a translation of the plaque, though some of the names are illegible. (Thanks to Taoufik Amri and Elias Zaher for their help with this.)
Below the list are more photos of the beautiful drive up there and the surrounding area.
In the name of Allah, the most kind and the most merciful.
Among the believers are men true to what they promised Allah. Among them is he who has fulfilled his vow [to the death], and among them is he who awaits [his chance]. And they did not alter [the terms of their commitment] by any alteration. Al ‘Ahzab 23
Under the instructions of the Commander of the Faithful, his Majesty Hassan II.
In celebration of this historic summer, we imprint on this plaque in Aghbalou N’Kerdouss, the country of epics and sagas, the names of the icons of the national movement from all over the country who the authority of the protectorate had imprisoned here from the year 1952 to the year 1955, as part of the preparation of the great conspiracy against the liberator of the realm, the forgiven, his majesty Mohamed V, may God bless his soul.
The following are the names of the prisoners:
Driss El-Mhamdi Mohamed Elmaazouzi Mimoun Waqdo El-Haj Ahmed Bnani Lfqih Mohamed Elmrdini Mohamed Bn-salmi Bn Aali El-Haj Ahmed El-Cherqaoui Mostapha Nahusa Mohammed Bn Abd Lkader Ahmed El-Zidi Mohamed El-Baqali Mohamed El-Hannaoui Moulay Ahmed Blhoussine El-madani Azizi Abd El-karim Ben-Jaloun Ahmed Ben-Kacem Bajid Mohamed Abd El-Slam Mkmlar Idriss El-Msbfr Mohamed Aamor Abd El-hadi Lahlo Ibrahim El-Katani Mohamed Baru Abdel-Kader Hassan Ahmed El-tbr Mohamed Lahlo El-Aiisaoui El-Mastsi Idriss Errays Mohamed El-Hamdaoui Abdel Aziz Bn-Idriss Moulay Ahmed Al-manjra Mohamed Bannani Abdeltif Ahmed Ben Allal Mohamed El-Gharouchi Aziz … Ahmed Ben Lmsayn El-Mokhtar Essousi Alli Bergach El-Haj Ben Amer Al-Mahdi Ben Barka Al-Alami Al-Ajrawi El-Haj Boufalja El-Maki Badou Mohamed Abd El-Raziq El-Bachir Ben Abbas Enfarji Mohamed Ben Hmad El-Difoussi Al-Alami Triain El-Houssine… El-Mahdi Skalli Moulay Abd Eddine Mohamed Hamida … Mohamed El-Fassi Fadoul El-Saygh EL-Haj El-Houssine Mohamed Ben Aazou Qassem El-Iraqi Moulay El-Houssine El-Maati Azizi Qadour El-Wartassi Hamza Omar Boutayeb (Illegible) Saaid Ahizoun Moulay El-Hassane Wch Mohamed Bellahcen Saaid El-Bouchtaoui Houssine … Mohamed El-Baraka Saaid Ol-Hssayen Khalid Mohamed BelHaj Mohamed El-Chraybi El-Haj Chater (Illegible) Mohamed Bouanan Moulau… Mohamed Bamouj
Aghbalou N’Kerdouss in 21st of October.