Harry and Meghan arrive in Morocco for whirlwind tour
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have arrived in Morocco for a whirlwind three-day tour that will see Meghan’s promotion of gender equality at the fore.
Harry and Meghan are making their first official visit to north Africa to strengthen Britain’s links with one of the few stable countries in the region, and a nation which will be an important post-Brexit market for the UK.
Britain’s ambassador to Morocco Thomas Reilly, who welcomed the couple when they arrived at Casablanca airport on Saturday evening, said Morocco’s promotion of women and girls, its inclusivity, and social entrepreneurship are “close to their royal highnesses’ hearts”.
The duke and duchess were two hours late for their welcoming ceremony due to the knock-on effect of an earlier delay to their scheduled air service.
In darkness, Harry inspected a sabre-carrying guard of honour from the Auxiliary Forces, dressed in their pristine white uniforms and formed in two rows.
The heavily pregnant duchess walked behind her husband as he looked over the troops, who had been patiently waiting for their arrival for more than an hour.
Despite spending a busy few days in New York recently for her luxury baby shower, which featured a string of A-list celebrities, Meghan looked relaxed and wore a striking red Valentino dress for their arrival.
A Kensington Palace spokeswoman said: “Their royal highnesses are very much looking forward to the visit and are grateful to their hosts and the British Embassy for arranging such an interesting programme.
“They are particularly pleased that they will have the opportunity to meet so many young Moroccans over the next few days.”
The couple began their tour, which will see them visit Morocco’s famous Atlas Mountains and the capital Rabat, by walking along a red carpet that led to Casablanca airport’s royal suite.
As they entered the building they were offered milk and dates – a traditional welcome in Morocco.
It was not apparent if Meghan used a spoon to sip the milk in an ornate bowl but Harry could be seen nibbling on a date.
A large motorcade of black limousines was waiting to take the couple and their entourage of nine – which includes a hairdresser – to meet Morocco’s Crown Prince Moulay Hassan.
They are staying as guests of Morocco’s King Mohammed VI at a royal residence.
Mr Reilly said: “It’s hugely exciting to have their royal highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Sussex here for the next few days and I’m really excited to showcase the vital roles that girls’ education and youth employment are playing in shaping modern Morocco.
“When we began planning for this visit, I had a very clear view in my mind of the story we wanted this visit to tell. It’s the same story we’ve been telling consistently at this embassy for the last 20 months since my arrival here.
“This official visit by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will highlight Morocco’s focus on women’s empowerment, girls’ education, inclusivity and the encouragement of social entrepreneurship.
“From a girls’ education project in the High Atlas Mountains, to programmes working with children with disabilities and young people with mental health challenges, to meeting with young social entrepreneurs, their royal highnesses will be shown first-hand the transformational impact of community-based programmes and Morocco’s changing social attitudes towards women.”
Morocco’s teenage Crown Prince welcomed Meghan and Harry to their royal accommodation after they had sped to Rabat in their motorcade.
The 15-year-old shook hands with the couple at the entrance to their royal villa in the grounds of King Mohammed’s palace.
It was believed to be the first official meeting between the British Royal Family and the future monarch of Morocco.
When the couple first arrived, Harry acknowledged a guard of honour outside the villa and they walked a few paces to where the young foreign royal was waiting.
After the greeting, the duke and duchess were again offered dates and milk with orange blossom – served to special guests in the country and a feature of Moroccan weddings when the bride and groom feed each other the food.
Meghan declined to sample the treats but Harry picked a date from the top of a large mound on a platter.
The Crown Prince’s mother, Princess Lalla Salma, has been the subject of much speculation after disappearing from public life more than a year ago – with rumours circulating she may be living abroad.
Her son left Harry and Meghan to settle in after just a few minutes and headed off into the royal compound.