Rais Hamidou


Rais Hamidou is one of the most famous corsairs of the Regency of Algiers. He was and still is very popular among Algerians mainly because he was a very powerful corsair who won many battles (and captured many ships and prisoners), because he was the last great Rais before Algeria’s invasion, and because he was a local (tawa3na) unlike the other major corsairs who came from Europe.

Albert Devoulx, who wrote a lot about the Regency of Algiers, could retrieve many documents related to Rais Hamidou and wrote therefore a book about his life. You can download it from the second link I provided here.

Rais Hamidou ben Ali was born in El Casbah of Algiers in the 1770s. His ancestors being Kabyles from the Isser district in Boumerdes. He started training to become a tailor like his father, but the stories he hears on Algeria’s corsairs ignited his thirst for adventure and pushed him to leave the training and sail in a Regency’s ship at the age of 10 or 11.

The Bey of Oran was the first to give him a Chebek before appointing him as the commander of the beylik’s naval forces as an award for all his successes. And following a victory against some Genovese vessels the Dey of Algiers (Hassan Pasha) decided to hire him as the commander of one of the Regency’s chebeks.

An accident near the coasts of El Kala broke the chebek (Hamidou however saved the crew), and fearing the Dey’s reaction, Rais Hamidou fled to Tunis then to Constantine before being forced back to Algiers. The Dey forgave him and gave him another chebek before promoting him around 1797 as the commander of the Regency’s biggest corvette. In 1802, Rais Hamidou captured a Portuguese vessel with 40 cannons. This helped promote him to the rank of commander of the Regency’s fleet.

Devoulx’s book provided a detailed list of the activity of the Rais between 1797 and 1808. In 1808, the new Dey exiled Hamidou to Beirut because, it is alleged, he considered him as a threat. Hamidou’s exile lasted less than 2 years as he was called back by another new Dey (Deys back then didn’t live long as the janissaries assassinated most of them relatively quickly).

Back in Algiers, Rais Hamidou resumed his activities and went even to the Atlantic ocean. There he captured several vessels, mainly Portuguese, and his bravery and smart moves added to his fame. He also took part in some battles and was key in the Regency’s victory against Tunis.

On 17 June 1815, Rais Hamidou met a powerful American squadron (under a Spanish flag) and got killed by a bullet at the beginning of the battle. The Algerian fleet was defeated and it’s said that Rais Hamidou’s body was thrown into the sea, but his life remained in the Algerian people’s memory as depicted by a song one can read translated in French in the above mentioned book.

The above 7.50 meter high statue was made in 1987 by Algerian sculptor Redha Chikh Bled. An Algerian Marine’s corvette is also named after the Rais.

5 thoughts on “Rais Hamidou

  1. Wonder if they spoke of previous encounters between the two navies🙂

    New York City — The Algerian navy ship ANS Soummam arrived in New York City on July 9 for a five-day port visit, marking the first time an Algerian navy ship has visited the United States.

    Soummam transited the Atlantic Ocean as part of a training program for officer trainees from the Algerian Naval High School.

    “I was very moved when I saw the ship in the port of New York,” said Abdallah Baali, Algerian ambassador to the United States. “It is truly a historic moment for us in New York and certainly for the crew and officers of the ship who came to the prestigious city of New York.”

    The visit by Soummam displays the increasing cooperation between the U.S. and Algerian navies. Earlier this year, Algeria hosted the combined maritime operations center in Oran during Exercise Phoenix Express.

    “The great thing about a country’s navy is that a naval ship can be used for multiple purposes,” said Captain Andy Lennon of U.S. 6th Fleet headquarters, the lead coordinator for the visit. “It can be used in war and, equally, it can be used for diplomacy.”

    While the training mission is designed to instruct students on navigating the world’s oceans, the port visit is also part of their training. According to Baali, a cultural and sports program was developed to give the officer-trainees an opportunity to conduct exchanges with the U.S. Navy in order to better acquaint themselves with one of the world’s largest navies and learn about its different services.

    The cultural program for the Algerian sailors included tours to various sites throughout the city, such as the United Nations, the Bronx Zoo and the 9/11 Memorial.

    “We have all been very excited to visit New York,” said Algerian Captain Mamia Mouzaoi. “It is a great opportunity to visit America, and the people have been very welcoming.”

    Showing their appreciation for the hospitality, Soummam also hosted a reception aboard the ship, allowing greater interaction between the crew, U.S. Navy and government officials.

    “We are happy to have the Algerians here,” said Terrance Holliday, the commissioner of New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs. “New York is a great city with a warm heart and a lot to see. We appreciate everything they bring here to make this city richer.”

    Throughout their visit, local U.S. Navy sailors from Navy Operation Support Center New York City and Naval Weapons Station Earle New Jersey have been available to show the Soummam crew around the city.

    “We have U.S. Navy sailors traveling with them to all of the sites throughout the visit,” Lennon said. “It allows us more opportunities to engage on a personal level, hopefully giving both nations’ sailors a richer experience.”

    From ALLAFRICA

  2. More info can be found on blida.net about some historical perspectives related to that period. As for Rais Hamidou, he was killed by a broadside at the very beginning of the Battle with commodore Stephen Decatur. That info can be found in the US Navy archives.

    More on that on blida.net

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