- anniversary - Morocco
AFP - Moroccans on Thursday began four days of celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of the accession to the throne of King Mohammed VI.
The king, 45, took the Alaouite dynasty's throne on July 23, 1999, after the death of his father Hassan II, but the Feast of the Throne was set down for the end of the month, to take place in Tetouan in the north of the country.
On Friday, during a traditional ceremony known as the bey'a, the sovereign dressed in white and on horseback, protected from the sun by a parasol held by a servant, will pass through a crowd of ulemas, or Islamic theologians, ministers, civil servants and lawmakers who will bow and swear their allegiance.
Thursday's press was full of special editions and glowing tributes to the king, whose reign has been marked by political and social change, particularly in domains such as human rights.
One paper, Le Matin, published a family tree of the Alaouite monarchs, dating back to Moulay Rachid (1666-72).
Mohammed VI was set to give a royal speech, which well-placed sources said would review the political, economic and social policies of the past year. The king is also expected to address the issue of the disputed Western Sahara with a renewed proposal for considerable autonomy for the region.
Morocco has occupied the Western Sahara since the withdrawal of Spanish settlers in the mid-1970s and stakes a historical claim to sovereignty over the territory contested by the Polisario Front guerrilla movement.
The United Nations is monitoring a ceasefire in the Western Sahara that has lasted for almost two decades, but a political settlement has been hard to find and the Polisario Front holds out for independence.
Festivities of various kinds have been taking place since July 23, with many concerts and parties, while streets are bedecked with flags, but the days to come will mark the height of the celebrations.
Air shows will be held over the Tangiers bay and above Morocco's Mediterranean beaches, while displays of horsesmanship are planned in the main farming regions of the country.
These displays, known as fantasias, date back to the days of tribal conflict and a warlike history, but the rifles wielded by the horsemen in the shows will be armed with blank bullets.
In the past decade, much has changed.
In 2008, the European Union gave the north African kingdom advanced status, which permits it free access to European markets and will in the long term see Morocco acquire road, rail and port infrastructure unmatched by its neighbours.
Economically, the three principal sources of foreign income -- tourism, remittances from Moroccans living abroad, and phosphate exports -- have dropped substantially as a result of the global financial crisis.
But in spite of that, Morocco registers an annual growth rate in gross domestic product of about five percent, a rate that would be welcomed in some ailing Western economies.
Its human rights record is a varied one.
Many victims of the so-called "leaden years" during the repressive reign of Hassan II have received compensation after an investigation by a panel for equity and reconciliation set up by the king himself.
But the torturers have not been brought to justice.