Former U.S. ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel shares his story of a hot summer day in Bouznika, and how Morocco’s trajectory has changed since then:
On a hot summer afternoon exactly 16 years ago today, I stood in line along a red carpet runway with other members of the diplomatic corps in Bouznika — a town between Casablanca and Rabat — to greet the newly ascended king of Morocco.
As U.S. ambassador to Morocco at the time, I had already met with King Mohammed VI on several occasions in private meetings before and after the death of his father, King Hassan II, who had passed away a month earlier. But he was about to deliver his second publicly broadcast speech to the nation, and we were eager to hear what the new leader had to say.
After all, it was a difficult and confusing time for the country. Hassan had reigned for 38 years through a chaotic post-colonial era when, as New York Times journalist Joseph Gregory wrote in an obituary on the late leader, “monarchies in Libya, Egypt, Iraq and Iran fell to socialist revolutions or the force of militant Islam.”
His ailing health — he died of a heart attack on July 23, 1999 — had not been widely publicized, and his death came as a shock to the Moroccan people. I will never forget the immense throb of mourners who traveled from all over the country to participate in his funeral procession. Millions of Moroccans descended onto the capital; two million of them lined the streets themselves…[FULL STORY]