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It was Friday early morning and people were already gathering at the main road. King Mohammed VI was visiting two ksour near by, which, according to people, was his first such visit to this area. King’s photos were displayed everywhere, Moroccan flags hung from all official buildings and polls along the road, and numerous banners were welcoming the King. It was a day to celebrate his visit. Everybody got a day off, schools were closed, as were all the businesses so that everybody could go and see their King. The municipality organized free transportation to and from the two ksour to cheer the King and perhaps even to shake his hand. People from as far as Tinghir, it truly was an amazing undertaking. And a day like no other for some.

Shumisa, Hanan, Hajar and me were running a bit late as we were supposed to take the bus as early as possible to ensure a good spot. Unfortunately we weren’t the only people wishing to get there so early and thus it took us another two and a half hours to actually get on the bus, which was taking people to one of the ksour and then coming back to get more people. When we got to the ksar, everything was ready for his arrival – red carpets on orangy soil/sand, huge pictures of the King were ubiquitous, there were tents for people to hide their heads from the scorching sun, royal guards were putting on their beautiful layered uniforms, made of wool and heavy cotton and who knows what else, looking so uncomfortable for the too hot Friday, musicians were taking their spots along the road, and of course there were thousands of people, waiting to catch at least a glimpse of their King. Even the tent where the King is briefed by his ministers or people in charge of a specific project carried out in that town/village and which is usually the purpose of his visit, was there. It all looked so identical to other such visits of the King.

And we waited, sat in the tent, had lunch by the mosque where men were listening to the Friday khutba. Time went by and we were still waiting for his arrival. At about 2pm we finally see the helicopter, which was supposed to carry the King from Errachidiya/Erfoud, where he was staying during his 10-day visit to the region. People started running towards the road and we at first hesitated to leave our spot in the shade as someone told us that he won’t come before 3pm but then we saw that the police and military auxiliary forces were in their ‘ready-steady-go’ position and that all the local officials in white (woolen…) jellabas and white or yellow balgha (Moroccan traditional shoes/sandals) were lined up along the red carpet. The air quickly filled with excitement and joy. He was finally there. We got a good spot from where we could see the whole ceremony and, most importantly, from where we could see the King. Another 20 minutes passed before first cars from the royal caravan drove by, people starting going crazy, musicians were playing at full blast, women ululating, cars were passing by and driving off… without stopping. I thought to myself, ‘this must just be his entourage, he’s probably still in the other ksar‘ when I realized that everybody started to leave. I must have been the only confused person in the crowd of at least 10.000 people. This was it? All this waiting under the blistering sun, all this preparation and getting up early for the display of the royal garage only? I asked my friends if they were disappointed and some said that “it was important to come so that he could see that we exist,” while other added that “it was too hot for him to get out of the car.” Later another friend of mine said that perhaps the reason why he didn’t stop in this ksar was that he was afraid of the people. Namely, as she continued, when his late father Hassan II visited Goulmima, a nearby town, people sent dogs after ‘him’ and thus he never returned to the land of these feisty people.

In the evening I sat with the family, waiting for the evening meal and watching the news. King’s visit to Goulmima and one of the ksour in the region was the main news item. We could see a new gym being opened by the King, and we could see him visiting the newly opened Qur’anic (boarding)school. The report then showed all the people cheering by the roads, the King shaking hands with local dignitaries, and finally we could see him among his people. Everybody seemed to be overjoyed though I could discern a slight disappointment among the members of my family who went to the ksar to be part of a similar scene yet were for some reason excluded from it. Who knows when he’ll come back.

And that was that. My encounter with the King.

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2.11.2009 19:39

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