Prince Harry and pregnant Duchess Meghan arrived in Morocco late Saturday for a two-day visit to the North African kingdom where literary and fashion stars once played and where terrorists now occasionally strike.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex – she is believed to be in her third trimester and has appeared heavily pregnant in recent appearances – are making an official visit to Morocco at the behest of the British government.
They arrived in romantic Casablanca in the evening local time and were to be greeted by the British ambassador to Morocco.
Meghan, 37, was wearing a red, Valentino dress when the royal couple arrived at the airport. Her color of choice was most likely a nod to the Moroccan flag. She paired the look with nude heels and a nude Valentino handbag.
The couple left behind them in London another media kerfuffle about her recent five-day trip to New York where a star-studded list of friends (Serena Williams, Amal Clooney) threw her a lavish baby shower at one of the city’s most luxurious hotels.
The pictures and descriptions of the party set off a round of critical comments by tabloid columnists and Twitter combatants in the U.K.(where baby showers are rare), who called her a “hypocrite” and “Marie Antoinette” for accepting private flights and gifts for a party that may have cost as much as $500,000 by some estimates, even though it was paid for by her friends.
Daily Mail columnist and “Good Morning Britain” co-host Piers Morgan, a former pal of Meghan’s, said the “sheer scale of the opulence” would put off the royal family and ordinary Brits. “The key thing about the royals is to be understated,” said Morgan. “The absolutely number one rule is don’t rub the British people’s noses in your wealth.”
So the trip to sunny Morocco may come as a respite for the royal couple. They are scheduled to carry out two days of engagements Sunday and Monday in the town of Asni in the Atlas Mountains and in Rabat, the capital about an hour away from Casablanca.
Among their scheduled activities: Visits to a school and a program aimed at helping girls access education in remote areas, and a program offering equine therapy for children. They will also take part in a Moroccan cooking demonstration and visit an arts and crafts market at the walled Andalusian Gardens.
And Meghan will return home with henna art on her body: A traditional Moroccan henna ceremony will be performed on her on Saturday in Asni, according to the itinerary. This colorful ritual, popular with Western tourists, is often associated with weddings and other important celebrations.
Kensington Palace said the couple’s visit is intended to highlight the roles that girls’ education and youth empowerment are playing in shaping modern Morocco. Girls’ education is one of the issues on Meghan’s royal charity agenda.
The Telegraph reported the couple followed airline and National Health Service guidelines which say it’s safe for pregnant women to fly until they are about 37 weeks pregnant, or 32 weeks if they are carrying twins.
Kensington Palace has said Harry and Meghan’s first royal baby is due in the spring; last month she told a well-wisher she was six months pregnant, so she is probably about seven months by now.
“The Duchess feels well and able to fly. Most airlines permit women to fly up until approximately the last month of their pregnancy,” The Telegraph quoted a palace official.
Morocco is an Islamic kingdom on the northwest shoulder of North Africa, directly across the Mediterranean from Gibraltar, the tiny British territory perched on a rock on Spain’s south coast.
Harry’s grandparents, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, visited Morocco in 1980 – a trip remembered by British diplomats and Buckingham Palace officials as “the tour from hell” thanks to the chaos that plagued it.
Then-King Hassan II (the current king’s father) ignored the schedule, repeatedly kept the queen waiting (once in broiling hot sun for hours) and then blamed her staff for the delays, according to Robert Hardman’s new book, “Queen of the World,” about why the British monarch is so popular around the globe, even in former colonies where there are few fond memories of her fellow Brits.
But the Sahara Desert kingdom has long been enticing to Western artists and intellectuals, attracting the likes of Saint Laurent (who was born in next-door French Algeria), Henri Matisse, Jack Kerouac, Paul Bowles, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote, who all lived in or visited Morocco in the 1950s and 1960s.
Fans of vintage film comedies will remember Morocco was one of the stops in the Bing Crosby/Bob Hope “Road” movies; Dorothy Lamour and Anthony Quinn starred with the two pals in “Road to Morocco” in 1942. And one of the most famous movies of all time, “Casablanca,” also from 1942, takes place in the port city in western Morocco.
But more recently, Morocco has turned up in the British government’s foreign travel advisories about the possibilities of kidnappings and terrorism.
“Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Morocco. You should be vigilant at all times,” the advisory warns.
Harry is known to love Africa, especially the sub-Saharan countries he has visited to promote wildlife conservation and his African children’s charity, Sentebale. Meghan, too, is an Africa fan, having visited Rwanda for charity before she met Harry in 2016.
Before their marriage, they visited Botswana together, and they are believed to have honeymooned there after the marriage in May 2018. Botswana is also the source of the center diamond for Meghan’s engagement ring.
One major new tourist attraction that Harry and Meghan will miss: The Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakech, about three hours away by car from Rabat. The museum dedicated to the French fashion designer recently opened in his vacation villa, the Jardin Marjorelle, a botanical garden and artist’s landscape garden that he and his partner, Pierre Berge, bought in the 1980s and regularly retreated to until his death in 2008.