The 48-year-old monarch, who succeeded his father, Hassan, in 1999, favours a hybrid sartorial style. Like his mixed approach to governance (blending autocracy with nominal democratic appointments), Mohammed likes to wear his Moroccan djellaba with dark designer sunglasses. He is absolute ruler, keeper of the faith and progressive reformer. His powerful propaganda machine churns out images of him in flowing traditional garb on horseback in lemon-yellow ceremonial robes during the annual ceremony of allegiance.
When he’s not in a djellaba, the Sharifian leader cultivates a modern look. He has been photographed on ski slopes and in sharp pinstripe tailoring. He even wears a starched white shirt and tie under his military uniform.
Mohammed VI is very aware that image is key to his grip on power and after seeing revolutions topple his neighbours, he has become willing to adapt to keep the 400-year-old monarchy in the driving seat. In July 2011 he rolled out reforms and appointed Justice and Development Party member Abdelilah Benkirane as prime minister after the elections in November. He even amended the new Moroccan constitution so that the King is no longer “sacred”, just “inviolable”. How his wardrobe will react to the new order is anyone’s guess.
- It’s common to see Mohammed VI in a red tarbouche or Fez on special occasions. The brimless felt hat takes its name from the city where Andalusian Arabs provided its crimson dye. In modern Morocco the Fez is still a symbol of national identity.
- Mohammed VI wears slim, dark glasses with suits, military garb and ceremonial dress. His sunglasses are a reminder of his modern credentials as a 21st century reformer. The shades are part of his persona as a cool cat ruler – the king is referred to as M6 by his subjects and drives an open-top Rolls-Royce.
- The Commander of the Faithful likes to don the traditional Moroccan djellaba – a long, loose, full sleeve garment with a hood. On state occasions Mohammed VI wears the large pointed hood over his traditional erraza or turban.
- Weather permitting; Mohammed VI often wears traditional soft, heelless, leather slippers called baboosh.
Date: 26 February
Candidates: President Abdoulaye Wade is seeking a third term, challenged by a fractious opposition split among several candidates. Internationally popular singer Youssou N’Dour may also be a factor if he decides to run.
Issues: Wade’s eccentricities are verging on liabilities – he recently proposed cutting the mark of elec- tion victory from 50 to 25 per cent. Suspicion looms that he will use a victory to hand the job to his son.
Comment: Relatively speaking, Senegal is a beacon of stable democracy. It would be a shame if this was undermined by an old man’s vanity.
Iraq’s vast marshes are thought to be the inspiration behind the Garden of Eden. But Saddam’s drainage projects on the Tigris and Euphrates and dams in Turkey and Iran nearly drove these wetlands to extinction. Since 2007, the marshlands have been resuscitated, bringing back wildlife, Iraqis and, eventually, tourists.
To help the economy of the marshes, an NGO called Nature Iraq has just finished three reed huts in Chibaish to accommodate eight to 10 visitors. “Among the people of these marshes, you’re honoured guests,” says Dr Azzam Alwash, director of Nature Iraq. “Kidnapping and violence have ended but it’s a reputation that’s hard to escape.”
Revolutions destroy some people and make the fortunes of others, and Bassem Youssef – an Egyptian cardiologist who has improbably become North Africa’s answer to Jon Stewart – falls firmly in the latter camp. The 37- year-old was awaiting a visa to go and work as a doctor in the US when he began writing a series of online video clips satirising his country’s political elite; now, following the toppling of Hosni Mubarak, Youssef has become a comedy sensation and hosts his own television show. “This kind of programme is totally new to Egypt,” he says. “I’m not a serious talk-show host or TV clown… It’s satire, but with a message.”