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Friday, 12 July, 2002, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
Morocco prepares for royal wedding
King and bride
Public nature of the marriage defies tradition

The wedding celebrations of the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, are due to take place later on Friday in the capital, Rabat.

The young King married his bride, Salma Bennani, in a religious ceremony in March, but Friday sees the start of the public celebrations which will last several days.

Two hundred other young couples will also be married, as part of the ceremony.

There has been a riot of coloured flags in the city centre and a set of huge new billboards of the 35-year-old king, while buildings in the main avenue have been getting a makeover - all in anticipation of Morocco's first public royal wedding.

In the past, a king's marriage here was a secret affair.

The celebrations will begin with a procession from the city gate to the royal palace, with representatives of Morocco's tribal regions bearing gifts and sweets for the bride, a 24-year-old computer engineer.

New era

The public festivities will continue in and around the capital over the next three days, with fireworks, music and displays by Arabian horsemen in robes and turbans.

The king has said he wants it to be a popular affair, and no foreign monarchs or heads of state will be present.

The public nature of the marriage is a break with tradition, and is intended to symbolise a new modern era of openness in Morocco under Mohammed VI, who ascended to the throne three years ago.

But critics argue that the change is largely superficial, and that Morocco is still controlled by the same powerful establishment of royal advisors and the military.

See also:

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