Sit al-Hurra.. Queen of Tetouan

Sit al-Hurra.. Queen of Tetouan, protector of the borders, and lady of the pirates of the White Sea

The history of Morocco, with all it knew about the succession of states and monarchies since its independence from the rule of the Levantine Abbasid state, preserves the names of several women who had a major and decisive role in determining the direction of history, starting from the European sweater that Idris I married, and who bore him his son Idris II, founder of the first Moroccan state Independent of the Abbasid Caliphate, Fatima Al-Fihri, who built the University of Al-Qarawiyyin, the first university in the world that still exists today, and Zainab Al-Nafzawi, who had a major role in building the city of Marrakesh and establishing the Almoravid state.

But a woman among them is distinguished by the fact that she assumed the duties of government directly and for a long time, and even led the military action herself, and she is the “free lady”.

This woman is distinguished by being from a Morisco family, one of those who were expelled by the Christians from Andalusia. This family established an independent state in the city of Chefchaouen in northern Morocco during the 16th century. After her marriage to her father’s ally, the leader of Tetouan, she was able to transform after his death into an actual ruler of the strategic city. She even married the Sultan of Morocco at the time, and entered into an alliance with the Ottoman leader in Algeria, Khair al-Din Barbaros, and shared with him the Mediterranean basin, to besiege the Spaniards and the Portuguese and fight them in revenge for Andalusia, to the extent that the Spaniards called her “The Tetouanese Barbarossa”. [1]

Historical sources call it the “Sit Al-Hurra”, which is what some interpret as the influence of Morocco at the time with terms that came to Andalusia from the Arab East. History perpetuates her as the first and last “queen” in Morocco, where she won official titles and powers that made her ruler of the city of Tetouan for nearly 30 years, and during this period of her rule she combined permanent military action against European ambitions, and the city turned into a miniature version of the administrative and administrative system in the capital Morocco at the time, the city of Fez. [2]

The fall of Granada.. A birth from the womb of the great tragedy

Al-Sitt Al-Hurra is the daughter of the Prince of Chefchaouen Ali bin Rashid, a well-known figure at home and abroad for the period of the 16th century AD. She is the sister of Minister Abi Salem and Prince Ibrahim bin Ali bin Rashid, and their mother, Lalla Zahra, is of Spanish Andalusian origin.

After all this, she is the wife of the Moroccan Sultan Ahmed Al-Watassi (932-956), a marriage that some compare to the marriage of the two Catholic kings “Fernando” and “Isabella”, Kings of Spain in the late fifteenth century AD and early sixteenth century. [3]

In a historical period characterized by a semi-disintegration of the central Moroccan state after the fall of the Marinid rule, the “Free Set” was born from the womb of the great tragedy of the displacement and extermination of the Moriscos in Andalusia after its fall in the hands of Christian kings, and even after emigrating with her family and settling in northern Morocco, she found herself in contact Direct with this force that expelled it from Granada, where the Portuguese were adjacent to Chefchaouen and Tetouan, by occupying the city of Ceuta.

The Portuguese were occupying three main Moroccan ports, Ceuta, Tangiers and Ksar El Saghir, which made them become an international and regional power, due to their almost total control of the Strait of Gibraltar. [4]

Mrs. Al-Hurra combined the ancient lineage of her father, Ali bin Musa bin Rashid (the honorable Idriss), and the European origins of her Spanish mother, “Zahra Fernandez”, where she lived in their custody alongside a single brother, Ibrahim bin Rashid, before everyone tasted the bitterness of expulsion and uprooting from the Andalusian land. And migrate to Morocco. [5]

The history of the first upbringing of the Lady Al Hurra is surrounded by some difference between the historical accounts, as some talk about her birth in 1485 in Granada, and her first marriage when she was 16 years old, i.e. in 1500, while other accounts talk about her birth in 1493 in Chefchaouen, and her marriage in 1510. Historical sources come back in the end to agree that 1542 is the year of the fall of this queen and her departure from Tetouan. [6]

The noise of the invading armies and the groaning of the capital.. torn Morocco

Some sources say that the Bani Rashid family, descended from the Idrisids, who were the first to rule Morocco in the Islamic period, emigrated before the fall of Granada, when it became clear that defeat was imminent.

The station was settled in the Andalusian family enjoying prestige and influence in the fortified mountainous region of Chefchaouen, where the Wattasids who ruled Morocco at the time (they are a Berber family that took the city of Fez as its capital), accept the stability of Andalusians fleeing from the Christian armies, and recognize them in some fronts for stability and protection from Foreign invasion as in the north, while other groups of Moriscos settled in other cities, especially Fez and Rabat.

Sayyida al-Hurra lived in a phase characterized by a delicate context that Morocco went through, where it was groaning under the weight of various pressures. The Ottomans came from the east and the Europeans from the north and west, and a new authority crawled on that list in the capital, Fez, a situation that made Morocco – despite the presence of a central state Recognized by allegiance and loyalty – distributed among emirates semi-independent from each other. [7]


The city of Chefchaouen.. Alhambra palace far from Granada

Mrs. Hurra lived under the rule of the last Arab king in Andalusian Granada, and she moved with her family among the Muslims who were expelled from Andalusia after its complete fall during the Christian Reconquista, but fate had in store for her the experience of becoming the actual queen of a vital region in the north of Morocco.

Prince Ali bin Rashid chose the impregnable site of Chefchaouen to build an impregnable kasbah in which he lived his Spanish wife, who stipulated that it be allocated a kasbah similar to the Alhambra Palace, which the Muslims left behind in Granada. [8]

There she received a very rich and diverse education, as she preserved her Spanish language acquisitions in particular, and added to her the sciences of jurisprudence and literature at the hands of senior scholars, and when Granada was falling into the hands of Christians, another Andalusian family – the Al-Mandhari family – settled in the city of Tetouan and returned Build and fortify it, a city that will become the kingdom of the Free Lady. [9]

Al-Sayyida Al-Hurra..a title that was held by some women in Andalusia, but it was then associated exclusively with this lady

“Al Hurra”… the title of Arab queens throughout history

Contrary to what many believe about this female character, that “Al-Hurra” is just a nickname, the late former historian of the Kingdom of Morocco, Abdel Wahab Benmansour, confirms that her real personal name is “Al-Hurra”, not Aisha, and he relied on what was stated in her marriage contract with Sultan Ahmed Al-Wattisi. [10]

Historians explain the choice of this name in that historical era because of its spread at the time, and several famous women carried it, including the mother of the last kings of Granada, Sultan Abi Abdullah Muhammad bin Al-Ahmar, and it is likely that she is the reason for some delusion that the original name of “Sayida Al Hurra” is “Aisha”, because The mother of Sultan Abi Abdullah was already carrying this name, and he was called the free because of her strong personality and influence in the affairs of government.

The possibility that the Queen of Tetouan had carried the title of the mother of the last kings of Granada as a personal name influenced by her seems likely according to historical data, because her father, Ali bin Musa bin Rashid, lived in Granada during that period, and therefore there is no doubt that he knew the Queen of Granada, nicknamed the Free.

“Al-Hurra” is also a name given in the Arabic language to queens. Unlike the position of caliph or imam, which is reserved for men, recognition of “earthly” authority did not pose a major problem in Arab-Islamic culture. Arab history preserves the memory of at least two queens bearing the name “Al-Hurra”, namely Asma bint Shihab Al-Sulayhi and Arwa bint Ahmed Al-Sulayhi, as well as a number of Andalusian queens who bore this name. [11]

There are those who interpret the name “Al-Hurra” as referring originally to the female goshawk, which is distinguished by its great role in caring for and protecting the family, in addition to the fact that the name Al-Hurra was given to females to distinguish them from female slaves. [12]

The marriage of kings.. The plan of the first alliance with Tetouan

What historical sources confirm is that Sayyida al-Hurra married the leader of the city of Tetouan, adjacent to Chefchaouen, in 1510 AD, following the marriages of kings in that era, which were more like alliances between rulers, and the goal of this alliance between the rulers of Tetouan and Chefchaouen, was to confront the Portuguese threats that were hanging On this part of northern Morocco.

As if this lady was destined for all her marriages to be political events, the first connection was with the leader of the city of Tetouan, and she is at an age estimated by the sources at between 16-18 years, a marriage that implicitly involved a political alliance that put the leader of Tetouan under the umbrella of Ali bin Rashid.

Thus, his daughter al-Hurra was the actual ruler of the city. In fact, the daughter of the governor of Chefchaouen was taking over the direct rule of Tetouan whenever her man-theoretic husband went out to fight one of his repeated battles against the Europeans who were intrusive into Moroccan territory, starting from Ceuta in the east and Tangiers in the west.

The Free Six owned a naval fleet that reached with its maneuvers the Rock of Gibraltar

Protecting the northern frontier.. The fleet of the new governor of Tetouan

With the death of her husband Al-Manzari in 1519, and due to the inadmissibility of a woman officially taking over the rule, Tetouan became subject to the rule of the brother of the free lady, Ibrahim bin Rashid, ruler of Chefchaouen, but in 1525 he would take a bold step, as he appointed his sister the actual ruler of the city of Tetouan, when she showed him Sophisticated and knowledgeable in the political and military measures. [13]

Some sources link the full rule of the city of Tetouan with the position occupied by her brother Ibrahim alongside the Wattassi Sultan, where he moved from Chefchaouen to Fez to become a minister and close advisor, especially in military affairs, empowering his sister to protect the northern frontier of the kingdom. [14]

Al-Sitt Al-Hurra owned a highly effective naval fleet, launching its operations from the port of Martil, near Tetouan, and bearing the name of the Spanish uncle of Sayyida Al-Hurra. Salé – on the Atlantic front, where part of the Andalusians settled – is witnessing in turn a great activity of maritime piracy as a kind of jihad against European ambitions, which combined the colonial character and the quest to Christianize Morocco. [15th]

Queen of the North and Sultan of Fez.. Political marriage

Al-Sayyida Al-Hurra politically shined in the northern facade of Morocco in the midst of the European military harassment that did not stop, which attracted the Moroccan Sultan Ahmed Al-Wattasi, so he proposed to her in 1541 in a political show rather than personal.

The Al-Wattisi Sultan needed to establish his rule in the north, in order to devote himself to confronting his Saadi rivals advancing from the south, while Al-Hurra also needed the Sultan’s support for its rule, and it is almost daily engaged in conducting piracy campaigns and maritime jihad against the Europeans, in addition to managing the affairs of the city and its surroundings internally.

Some historical sources say that Mrs. Al-Hurra forced the Sultan to move himself to the city of Tetouan to conduct marriage ceremonies, insisting on staying within her political sphere of influence, and that was the only time that a Moroccan sultan moved outside his capital in order to marry. [16]

Her marriage contract with the Sultan was the historical document that settled the controversy over her real name, as it turned out that “Al Hurra” is a personal name and not just a title. The contract was written by the Magistrate’s Judge of Morocco at the time, Abd al-Wahed bin Ahmed al-Wancharisi, who is known for his splendid writings from a linguistic point of view. [17]

The second marriage of Mrs. Hurra to the ruler of Morocco, Sultan Ahmed Al-Wattassi, came as a result of the desire for major political alliances

Pirates of defense and revenge.. Andalusian women on the political front

The fall of Granada pushed many Andalusian women to the political front, so they were forced to participate in the front lines of the battle for survival, especially after having to migrate towards the southern bank of the Mediterranean, and the Iberians trying to chase them into Moroccan territory.

Among these women was the Lady Al Hurra, who confronted the leadership of military piracy, in self-defense and avenging the major defeat following the fall of Granada, and even in order to preserve the hope of returning to Andalusian homes again, as the displaced families continued to dream of.

In contrast to her first marriage to the ruler of Tetouan, the second engagement of this exceptional lady is very exciting, as she will marry the central sultan who was ruling Morocco from the city of Fez, Sultan Ahmed Al-Watassi, and historical data indicate the exciting details of this marriage, where the Sultan officially moved His retinue, scholars, and armies accompany him to the city of Tetouan, in order to bond with the beautiful widow, the ruler of Tetouan.

This marriage is explained by many factors, including that the Sultan had previous knowledge of Al-Sayyida Al-Hurra, as she was one of the members of the ruling family of Ibn Rashid in Chefchaouen, and that the sister of Sultan Al-Watassi was the wife of the brother of Al-Sayyida Al-Hurra, who will be approached by the Moroccan Sultan and make him his minister and advisor, because of what he showed Special talents in diplomacy, politics and military action. [18]

Strengthening the home front and protecting the coasts.. Fez goals

In addition to strengthening the northern front in the face of European threats, the Sultan’s keenness to strengthen his internal alliances was also aimed at confronting his internal political rivals, the Saadians, who were extending their influence from southern Morocco, presenting themselves as an effective alternative in the face of European Christian penetration.

At a time when the half-brother of the free lady, Ibrahim bin Rashid, was considered a deceiver, her half-brother who was ruling Chefchaouen after the death of the father was Saadi inclinations, which puts the marriage of the free lady with Sultan Ahmed al-Watassi in the context of the latter’s approximation of the axis supporting him. In exchange for his dismissal of Mohammed bin Rashid from the rule of Chefchaouen, he chose the Saadi camp, before returning to pardon him. [19]

What confirms the political nature of the marriage of the Moroccan Sultan al-Wattassi to al-Sayida al-Hurra, is that he did not accompany her with him after his marriage to her, but kept her in Tetouan as a queen over it and a guard of its coasts open to the invasions of the Spaniards and Portuguese, a task that she performed well, as she was the partner of her first husband, the ruler of Tetouan Muhammad al-Mandhari In ruling, this lady extended her rule over the Moroccan Tetouan for about thirty years, that is, from 1510 until her demise from the rule in 1542. [20]

During her marriage to the Sultan of Morocco, Sayyida Al Hurra allied herself with the Ottoman leader Barbaros, King of the Seas

The captain of the pirates and the king of the seas.. the lady of political alliances

Historical sources unanimously agree on the strong nature of Mrs. Hurra’s personality and her tendency to confrontation and war, as she did not hesitate to clash with the ruler of the occupied city of Ceuta whenever he exaggerated in encroaching on her sphere of influence, and her sea piracy ships specialized in capturing Christians and selling them in the slave market, at a time when At the time, the scales tended to be civilized by Europeans, who took professional capturing and enslaving other peoples.

She is the master of political alliances par excellence, as she combines at the same time the support of the Moroccan Sultan al-Wattasi, who became her husband officially, and the support of the Ottoman commander Barbaros, who was engaged in a fierce naval confrontation against the Europeans from the Spanish and the Portuguese, as the Ottoman fleets launched from Algeria and those of the Free Lady from Morocco became , coordinates its movements and strikes against the European fleets.

The unity of the goal of fighting the armies of the Spanish and the Portuguese, prompted the Lady Hurra to agree with the Turkish captain Khair al-Din Barbaros – nicknamed the King of the Seas for his victories in the Mediterranean – to share the areas of jihad, so she supervised the western Mediterranean from Morocco, and he led the operations in The eastern Mediterranean from Algeria, at a time when the Ottoman Empire was at the height of its power, during the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. [21]

After a life full of jihad and achievements, Sayyida al-Hurra spent her last years in the Zaouia Rissouniyeh, where she was buried.

The spears of intrigue and the loopholes of betrayal… a mystical end to a strong queenملكة

Political and personal factors combined to end the rule of Sayyida Hurra in the city of Tetouan, as the machinations of the family of her first husband and former ruler of the city, Al-Mandhari, led them to an alliance with the Saadians, opponents of the Wattasi Sultan married to Sayyida Hurra, as many historians consider that she fell victim to her political loyalty to her husband in his war against the Saadians. Those crawling against him from the south, as one of the Al-Mandhari family will lead a military rebellion against the Wattasid rule and its ally in the city of Tetouan, where it was overthrown from power at the end of 1542. [22]

But there is a main factor that likely contributed to the end of the rule of Sayyida al-Hurra and her expulsion from Tetouan, which is the death of her brother Ibrahim in 1539, in the city of Fez, where he was close to the Sultan. [23]

Historians summarize the reasons for the fall of the rule of Sayyida al-Hurra in the city of Tetouan in her military and naval activity, and her insistence on practicing piracy as an effective defense method against Europeans and a source of financial returns, and then due to the strong internal opposition to her on the part of the Al-Manzari family, the family of her first husband, who continued to consider themselves more entitled to rule, then She was betrayed by her half-brother, Mohammed bin Rashid, who was inclined to the Saadians, the opponents of her husband, the Wattasi Sultan. [24]

Despite her dismissal from the rule of Tetouan and the confiscation of her property, Mrs. Hurra was not without cunning in appreciating the safest haven, as she chose to stay in Chefchaouen instead of joining the capital of the rule of her husband, Sultan Al-Watassi, for her certainty that his reign is fading, and that the Saadians are about to extend their full control over Morocco, but even when she She lives her last days in Chefchaouen, as she established the Ribat Sofia and empowered it with a military arm directed mainly against European incursions, until she died in 1562 to be buried in the headquarters of the Rissounian corner, a place that is considered a religious shrine until now. [25]

The Sufism of the Sitt al-Hurra was not a coincidence or a turning point in her life. Rather, it was a well-established characteristic of her personality, as she was described as embracing Sunni Sufism, that is, Sufism that is based on Islamic law and not on anything else from philosophy, literature, or others, as the specialist in this subject explains. Ali Raissouni. [26]

Steve Ramsey. 



[3] http://www.
[5] portrait-de-femme-sayyida-al-horra-la-sultane-guerriere-par-anissa-bellefqih/
[6] Maziane, Leila, Sit Al-Horra, gouvernante de Tétouan et armatrice de navires corsaires au XVIe siècle, 2019 – ISEM – Istituto di Storia dell’Europa Mediterranea


[10] Volume One of the Royal Documents Presented and coordinated by Professor Abd al-Wahhab bin Mansour, Document 115.
[11] Fatima Mernissi, Sultanes oubliées, femmes chef d’état en Islam, ALBIN MICHEL 1990
[12] com/watch?v=NIctU9-Lwh4
[14] Maziane, Leila, Sit Al-Horra, gouvernante de Tétouan et armatrice de navires corsaires au XVIe siècle

2019 – ISEM – Istituto di Storia dell’Europa Mediterranea

[16] Fatima Mernissi, Sultanes oubliées, femmes chef d’état en Islam, ALBIN MICHEL 1990
[17] .com/watch?v=NIctU9-Lwh4
[19] /item/5034
[21] Free

[23] Maziane Leila, Sit Al-Horra, gouvernante de Tétouan et armatrice de navires corsaires au XVIe siècle,2019 – ISEM – Istituto di Storia dell’Europa Mediterranea

[25] https://www.
[26] -Lwh4

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