I turn up at the hotel I always always stay in when I'm in Marrakech - and the usually cheery Thami on reception looks tense and preoccupied. 'What's up?' I ask and first he tells me that someone's father has died ... which is awful, but doesn't really seem to explain his obvious distraction.
And THEN I learn that my favourite room on the roof is occupied and the hotel is full ... and why? Because the King of Morocco is in town and the rooms are taken up by 65 policemen! 65 in my hotel, and 200 in the hotel next door! The King travels with an Entourage with a capital E ...
Eventually I manage to worm my way into one of the rooms on the roof ... with some pleading and playing and praying ... as long as I dont mind being surrounded by police, Thami says, and who is going to mind THAT?! Anyway, who wants to stay in their room much when they are in Marrakech?!
So the whole of my stay is permeated by the Presence of the Police. In the mornings the scent of their cologne lingers in the corridor - for in my section of the roof reside the plainclothesmen, who leave very silently every morning in shiny dark suits and glasses.
During the day - for even though it is winter, temperatures rise to 23 or so by 2 - all the chairs and tables on the roof are covered with items of police washing: everything from smalls and socks to sweatshirts, towels and flannels, steaming in the sun. They even bizarrely leave their soap boxes out ...
At night the younger policemen all sit around in the lounge (a bit cold on the open roof) locked to their mobile phones and laptops - though the latter are few and far between (an ordinary policeman probably does not get paid very highly). They get used to me and are always very friendly, although my Arabic mostly reduces us to rather quaint greetings and hopes for sleepy nights.
The secret policemen - never to be seen in this lounge - do, however, also get used to my presence, mostly when I am fiddling with my key in the lock in the dark corridor: a head usually pops out of a door just to check that I am who I am and I reassure them that I am who I am by saying 'C'est moi'. Multi-linguistic me!
One morning they also found me tutting and strutting about on the roof cos some of the younger boys (the phone lot) had left their sandwiches (some uneaten, unwrapped and on the floor) and empty coke bottles all over the place. Two of them bent down in their immaculate suits and cleared it all up ...... well, after all, I was the only legit guest (and only foreigner) staying on the roof. And the police have their standards, especially the King's police.