Thursday, April 10, 2008

Visit from the King

The king came to Mrirt today. Sadly I don’t have pictures though. When I pulled out my camera I got a stern rebuke from the skinny waif of a gendarme standing on my section of the line. Incidentally he was here to inspect an association with which my souq town volunteer Anna works. Sadly she couldn’t be in the building at the time of inspection for even though she had a pass, the authorities were being jumpy and the presence of some random foreigner doesn’t really calm them down much. So she and I watched the procession from the road.

Now Mrirt has been decked out for four or five days with the anticipation of the coming king. By decked out I mean that Moroccan flags were posted every 30 or so meters along the road, the fountain in the center of town was on for the first time since I’ve been here, and the streets were actually cleaned. This morning people were already crowding the roads at 7 even though he wouldn’t pass until 5 or 6 hours later. I arrived around 1230 from my site and we had to take a sketchy back road… I laugh because all the roads to my site are back roads, so the fact that I’m calling this road a back road should say something… and I got dropped off a ways from town. Since the next day was souq and I usually am out of food at this point in the week, I was hungry and all I wanted to do was to go get something to eat, but all the food was on the other side of the road and although the king wouldn’t pass for another hour or so, the gendarmes would let me cross. The road was packed on all sides with people holding little Moroccan flags, pictures of the king, and little children chanting something I only partially understood. It was quite the festive atmosphere.

It took him about 15 seconds to pass my point in the road and almost immediately the crowd dissipated. Some of the kids went running after the convoy, but most of the people around me went their separate ways to discuss their particular angle of vision and interpretations of the minutest details. Anna and I proceeded to the association building he had just visited where we were scolded for not being present during the inspection. Let’s be honest though, I don’t have any clothes in this country appropriate for meeting any kind of monarch and this association isn’t my work. Anna probably should have been there, but her association has it together and neither she nor I want to steal their thunder. Her association is a group of handicapped artisans who make rugs and various other products for sell. Handicapped people have it quite difficult here… there are no wheelchair ramp laws to say the least… and this is a group of resilient people who deal with some pretty powerful cultural stigmas.

We sat and chatted with everyone for a while and then headed home…

… don’t worry, I got some food. I know you were concerned that I didn’t eat. I did. ; )