The Politics of Morocco – Lunch with the King

The very best food of North Africa is some of the best in the Arab world. Moroccan food means spices of modest power with the healthiness that Middle Eastern food is known for. The Arab world is in a frenzy right now as governments throw off monarchy and dictatorships for free elections. But food (oddly enough) will also be affected. In Morocco, every restaurant has a dish named after or influenced by the King’s likes or dislikes. When I visited Morocco, I enjoyed eating the very best food that local restaurants had to offer and the “King’s Dish” was almost always the best food in the restaurant. At “Sim’s Restaurant” it was a dish featuring camel meat and spices. At each restaurant it seemed to be different. I surmised the dish was probably the restaurant owner’s favorite and had nothing to do with the king at all. I gathered it was similar to the way Americans view the president’s favorite food, but with one important difference. Unlike the United States which has a much larger population, the subjects of the Moroccan king seemed to have at least attended some function he was present at. They used the term “met the king” but I understood they had been in his presence. I found this odd. So it seemed they had a relatively positive image of him regardless of their level on the social ladder.

In America, we couldn’t imagine serving a ruler given his position by genetics. That seems morally reprehensible to us. But Morocco is very different than the United States. Sitting and talking to the people of Morocco, it seemed they loved their king; he came to the mosque and worshiped with them, so some people locally felt they knew their ruler. Although he had more than 10 palaces, the person on the street felt a personal connection to their ruler. It was very odd. Most of them seemed to actually like him and a few claimed they prayed for him on a daily basis. Their politics seemed very strange to me. Western politics seemed strange and pretty odd compared to the hometown feel Moroccans had for their king. Now people in the Arab world are throwing off this type of leadership for a say in how the country moves forward. Democracy is sweeping the Arab world. It is amazing considering the level of politics in a monarchy.

In this time of political upheaval, it seems that just a year ago in Morocco that people were telling me how benevolent and well-liked their monarch was. Now that Egypt has changed its government, and Sudan has had elections, Moroccan politics are showing signs of change. The entire North African world is changing. If I went back to Morocco and asked these same questions today, I wonder if the answers would be different?