The year was 1951, and Morocco was still a French protectorate. Touria Chaoui, born in the city of Fez to a French-speaking journalist and his wife, had just achieved the unthinkable. She had become the first female pilot in the Arab world.
Touria’s journey to the skies began with a role in a movie called “The Seventh Door,” directed by her father and produced by André Zwobaba. The experience sparked a lifelong passion for flying that would ultimately lead to her tragic death.
After moving to Casablanca with her family, Touria enrolled in the French aviation school at Tit Mellil, determined to achieve her dream of becoming a pilot. The school was reserved for French families living in Morocco, and they did everything they could to prevent Touria from learning to fly. However, Touria was undeterred, and after a year of studying and flying lessons, she received her pilot’s license on October 17, 1951.
News of Touria’s achievement spread like wildfire, and she became an instant celebrity in Morocco. Letters of congratulations poured in from women’s organizations, and Sultan Mohamed Ben Yousef invited her to the palace to congratulate her personally. Touria even became an honorary member of two charitable organizations, The Future of the Young Moroccan Girl and The Cradle of the Poor, where she used her position to investigate the charity’s books.
However, Touria’s celebrity status also made her a target. She discovered that the donations she had inspired were going straight into the pockets of the other board members. At the next board meeting, Touria stood before the members and exposed their crimes, angering them and making them unhappy about her rise to prominence.
Despite the danger, Touria continued to pursue her passion for flying. She was preparing to fly to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia when tragedy struck. On March 1, 1956, one day before Morocco gained independence from France, Touria was shot dead in front of her mother and younger brother.
To this day, mystery surrounds Touria’s death. Ahmed Touil, the head of an underground nationalist movement, was suspected of being the assailant, but he denied it. He claimed that the husband of one of the high-society ladies Touria shamed had hired a hitman to please his wife. A couple of months later, Touil was ambushed by Moroccan police and shot dead.
Touria Chaoui’s story is a tragic one, but it’s also a testament to her courage and determination. She defied the odds to become the first female pilot in the Arab world and used her position to expose corruption and fight for what she believed in. Her legacy continues to inspire young women in Morocco and beyond to follow their dreams, no matter what obstacles they may face.