A Masterpiece Unfinished...
OBBI 110630Z 12006KT CAVOK 23/13 Q1015 NOSIG
Her first accomplishment was to charm her disappointed father. Winning him over, before uttering a word. She was magic on the silver screen, dominating the performance with alluring charisma. She broke restriction and earned the admiration of her elders. An accomplished person, at a youthful age. Ethically, she defended the honor of all, educated the masses, and empowered women. She stood tall among her people and united them to civility... All before her assassination, at the tender age of 19…
Sad is the Moon to the loss of her youth, a beautiful flower, a kept jewel, a young Maiden, that met God with innocence and purity. The first Moroccan Aviatrix.
I am your Father…
Strait out of a Bohemian sketchbook, her father [Abdulwahed AlChaoui – عبد الواحد الشاوي] was a popular Moroccan stage writer, actor, and producer in the late 1930s. He also ventured into the world of cinema, creating his own production studio, and later a theater. A man of the Arts, revolutionary and liberal in his thoughts. With an intellect to be one of a few Moroccan column writers in a francophone newspaper [ Le Courrier du Maroc ].
On 14th of December, 1936, rushing out of stage rehearsal, Abdulwahed heads home to the news of his wife [Zaina - زينة ] bore him a daughter. Disappointment gripped his patriarchal self, but he was soon charmed by the eyes of his [ Touria – ثريا ]. A name relating to bright stars of the [ Pleiades Constellation ], and an emphasis to the unimaginable worth of shining beauty.
Being the self-taught literary that he was, he filled her life with Poetry, Philosophy, History, even managing to commission a tutor. He pushed her into public speaking and saw her education through, sending her to Tunis to advance further than primary school. In the Arts he was her first step to the Stage, and her lifting hand to the Silver Screen. She was his Touria.
I am your Daughter…
Touria’s had a fascination with flight long before her first ride. As a young girl she lived through air raids of 1940’s WWII, witnessing the swarms of aircraft diving and twisting through and between the minarets of Fez. Her toys were planes, her eyes were to the sky, and she never missed an opportunity to see the fiery birds when they passed by. Her feet on the ground, her heart in the air, she was truly a person of the Sky.
After moving the family to Casablanca in 1948, Abdulwahed gets in a taxi with daughter in pursuit of a promise. They head to the nearest aviation school, at the [ Tit Mellil Airport – مطار تيط مليل ]. Built by the French after the war, it was used as a training facility by the Elite fighter Corp, known as the [ Ailes Chérifiennes – Noble Wings – أجنحة الشريفة ].
Once at the airport Abdulwahed walks in with his daughter. The French officers took them for local job seekers and were quick to dismiss them. It was more of a joke to them when he spoke. Derogatory in manner, School Director, Monsieur Martin dismisses the “Mohammed” and “Fatima” standing in front of him. Laughter to the idea, and ridicule to the thought, he gathers his subordinates and shares the laugh. He gives his best performance to argues “I have the means. What rule forbids her?”
Faced with the bureaucratic logic of the old French system, and a belief that Touria would never be able to finish the intensive elite pilot course. Monsieur Martin, reluctantly allows her to take the classes. It was now up to her to attain her dream.
Maintaining their derogatory manner, pilots in training and staff resented Touria. She perseveres and manages to ace her classes, showing a great ability to comprehend and absorb.
As her training progressed, her peers came to admire and respect her accomplishments. She manages to complete her training in about a year, with only 2 days of training per week. Encouraged and supported by her family and neighbors, she pushed forward to the day of her Check Ride.
On the 17th of October, 1951, Touria is accompanied by her father to the airfield, with an entourage of neighbors, family, and friends to witness Touria earn her wings. Weather being the mistress of hate, heavy clouds, a cold front, and high winds, coming in from the Atlantic assured a challenge for the young aviatrix.
Tensions arose when even her instructor, a Spaniard named [ Senor Guerra ], argued and urged Monsieur Martin to reschedule, but Monsieur Martin absolutely and bureaucratically refused “Today or Never”. Adamant to succeed Touria rides her Piper J-3 Cub and takes to the Sky.
The weather was reported to be intensely turbulent, to the point that, she had to climb to about 10,000ft or approx 3,000m to conduct her tests. She completes all her tasks and lands the aircraft with engines off, rolling directly to the spectator's stand. Expecting failure, Touria was surprised to see that the man that stood in her way was the first to greet her. Out of character with joy Monsieur Martin carries Touria on his shoulders and accompanies her to the verbal test.
At the age of almost 15, [ Touria Abdulwahed AlChaoi – ثريا عبدالواحد الشاوي ] becomes the first Moroccan to earn a pilot's license, and an instant local, national, and international celebrity. Word spread around the world, to the announcement of her achievements. Political Leaders, International Celebrities, even the Sultan of Morocco Mohammed the 5th receives her at the Royal Palace.
Shortly after her great achievement Touria’s cough relapses and develops. Compounded with the stress faced in her training, along with the low temperatures of altitude flying, and a lack of medical attention, Doctors didn't expect her to survive the week. With word of her illness reaching the Sultan, he orders to immediately transfer her to a medical facility in the Alps [ Clinique Sancellemoz ] and helps in her recovery. Six months with company of Mont Blanc, she quickly finds her strength and heads back home.
Touria returns to a country at the brink of civil war, the Sultan has been exiled and replaced. The French increase security enforcement in the cities in an attempt to quell the chaos abound. Nationalists fought communists, Communists fought the Islamist, which then fought the French, which placed local gangs in charge, which the nationalist fought, and so on. Bombings were frequent, and things weren't well.
Touria focuses on herself and aviation, working to improve the local culture and become a positive beacon of hope. She cooperates with a number of charities and foundations. Being the celebrity that she was, donations came easy. Later she gets involved with a Local Women’s Charity Foundation in aiding impoverished Moroccan women. Only to uncover that the members of the charity were embezzling funds. She ousts them, and creates a furry among the women elites of Casablanca. She accuses them by name to the infractions they committed. She later opens a Charity Foundation of her own and manages her image directly without the parasitic arm of the bourgeois.
We Struggle as a Family…
One afternoon in early November 1954, a grocer in neighborhood approaches Abdulwahed and informs him that a French man was asking about the family’s comings and goings, it was clear that the intent was mischievous. As a husband and father, Abdulwahed decides to move his family to the nearby “Hotel Bonaparte”, where the French owner offers him rooms for free. Later that night, the Hotel owner Monsieur Girardin, wakes Abdulwahed to inform him of a blast occurring at his residence. An explosion so large, that nothing was left of the house. Less than two months pass, and another attempt. This time he was walking back home with his daughter, and gunmen opens fire with automatic weapons at them in the street. Thankfully they escaped unhurt.
Abdulwahed was a well known Nationalist. Politically, the French saw him as a problem. The Islamist saw his liberal family as a problem. The Communist saw his art as a problem, and now his daughter Touria being in the spotlight, is becoming a problem to all.
After the second attempt, Abdulwahed manages to secure a Safehouse in Madrid, through one of his political contacts. Lacking the license to drive the vehicle he bought, Touria takes the wheel and drives her family out of Casablanca and onwards to Spain. The family spends a few months in a self imposed exile until things settle down at home. With news of the weakening French grip and the expected return of the exiled Sultan, things started to look brighter.
Targeted before, Abdulwahed resisted the return of his family to Morocco. Touria herself was witness to these attempts, of which she almost fell victim. The family was regularly targeted, as Abdulwahed maintained his nationalistic stance, and Touria gained iconic popularity. Threats by the political police, shootings directed at them, and not to forget the bombing of his house.
By spring of 1955, as the political situation started to ease, Abdulwahed is persuaded to head back with his family to Morocco. The hopeful news of the imminent return of the Sultan, coupled with the expected exit of the French, gave Abdulwahed a role. Morocco was to be independent!
Being a formidable Nationalist herself, Touria was galvanized by her father's role as a political voice. On the 16th of November 1955, Morocco witnessed the Sultan’s return from exile. With excitement, Touria took to the sky from [ Rabat-Salé Airport - مطار الرباط سلا ] and followed the Sultan’s motorcade to the [ Dar al-Makhzen Palace - دار المخزن ]. Displaying some daring low passes, and tossing pamphlets out her aircraft. Witnesses reported the sky and areas leading to the palace, were cascading with falling paper welcoming the Sultan’s return.
By early 1956, Morocco was set for independence, with a date set for signing on the 2nd of March. In support and jubilation, Touria met with her Charity workers, she stated praises with pride to the upcoming event and gave them the weekend off. She then accompanied her young brother back home. Just outside the house, with her brother next to her, a man approaches the car. Touria pokes out the window to call for the housemaid, and receives two opportune shots to the back of the head, instantly killing her. She never saw the gunman coming…
The day of celebration was shadowed by the death of Touria. Moroccans throughout the land felt the loss of their daughter. None more than her father Abdulwahed. Tens of thousands walk her funeral the day of independence. It was reported that her funeral lasted 40 days, and was held at a nearby theater.
I am your Keeper...
"Returning from a family trip in Spain, with Touria dressed in her pilot uniform, we await to board a plane. She notices the Captain and crew laughing at the little girl pretending to be a pilot. Headstrong as she was, once in the air, she asks to visit the cockpit.
Delighted to see this spectacle, the Captain calls her over, only to the surprise of this little girl being an actual pilot. At the end of the flight, the Captain, to the surprise of the passengers, announces, (Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to inform you, that today's flight was conducted by this young lady). She was 17.
He also recalls the tension of escaping to Spain. The constant confusion, the change of environment, and the stress of an exiled life. He remembers his father, managing his day to day life. Maintaining his profession, political position, and his family.
Most painful of memories was of his Sister’s death. Being next to her in the car, young Salah at the age of 11 was a direct witness to the incident. He remembers the shock, the disbelief, the chaos, and rage. But most of all the deterioration of his father.
After Touria’s incident, Abdulwahed took the blame on to himself. The pain of losing a child, the guilt of probably being the reason for her death. Worse of all was the loss of his best work ever. Touria was more to Abdulwahed than just a daughter that flew. Touria was his Master Piece that never came to be…
Lovely blog, thanks for taking the time to share this.
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