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Thursday, July 29, 1999 Published at 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK

World: Middle East

King Abdullah goes undercover

Jordan's citizens are more used to seeing their king looking like this

King Abdullah II of Jordan has shown himself to be a master of disguise after going undercover as a television reporter to investigate operations in the kingdom's duty free zone.

The BBC's Paul Adams reports on a tactic bound to win the loyalty of Jordan's population
Wearing a false shaggy white beard, a traditional white robe and a red headdress, the monarch took a trip to the industrial city of Zarqa where he spent five hours listening attentively to unwitting businessmen and traders.

Armed with a video camera, the king arrived in Zarqa by taxi, accompanied by another TV journalist - in fact the head of the palace press centre.

Disgruntled investors were only too ready to tell the royal TV crew just what they thought about Jordan's bloated bureaucracy.

According to the Al-Dustur newspaper, one trader from Dubai complained bitterly that customs officials were not doing their jobs.

He asked the TV reporter king: "How can an application take four days to process when there are 40 customs officials at 40 windows?"


It was only when the zone's officials got wind of the fact that a TV crew was filming without a special permit that the king was forced to reveal his true identity.

[ image: King Hussein would reportedly hide his face behind his headdress]
King Hussein would reportedly hide his face behind his headdress
The officials were amazed when the sovereign pulled off his beard and headdress, and crowds of shocked citizens flocked around him, singing his praises.

The palace confirmed reports of the king's impromptu excursion, which was carried by several Jordanian dailies.

Since ascending the throne in February an undisguised King Abdullah has made a series of surprise visits to hospitals, border crossings and other public services.

Correspondents say King Abdullah was continuing a tradition started by his father, King Hussein, who often mingled with his subjects. Reports say the late king sometimes draped the ends of his headdress across his face to conceal his identity.

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