Morocco’s king has become increasingly absent over the past few years, to the frustration of the nation’s bureaucrats. A potential cause? His friendship with three Moroccan-German kickboxing brothers. Nicolas Pelham tells the bizzare story in The Economist; it’s illustrative not just of Morocco’s fraught post-colonial history but of its place in the Arab world, too.
“Five years ago, an unusual image appeared on Instagram. It showed Mohammed VI, the 54-year-old king of Morocco, sitting on a sofa next to a muscular man in sportswear. The two men were pressed up next to each other with matching grins like a pair of kids at summer camp. Moroccans were more accustomed to seeing their king alone on a gilded throne.
‘The story behind the picture was even stranger. Abu Azaitar, the 32-year-old man sitting next to the king, is a veteran of the German prison system as well as a mixed-martial-arts (MMA) champion. Since he moved to Morocco in 2018 his bling-filled Instagram feed has caused the country’s conservative elite to shudder. It’s not just the flashy cars, it’s the strikingly informal tone in which he addresses the monarch: ‘Our dear King,’ he wrote next to one photo of the two of them together. ‘I can’t thank him enough for everything he has done for us.’”