Harry and Meghan champion girls’ education in Morocco

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Prince Harry and Meghan are seen during a henna ceremony as they visit a boarding house for girls run by the Moroccan NGO ‘Education for All’ in Asni, Morocco, on Sunday. (Reuters)
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Prince Harry and Meghan pose with staff and girls at a boarding house for girls run by the Moroccan NGO ‘Education for All’ in Asni, Morocco, on Sunday. (Reuters)
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Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, are welcomed by British Ambassador to Morocco Thomas Reilly and his wife Alix, at the Casablanca Airport in Casablanca, Morocco, February 23, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 24 February 2019
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Harry and Meghan champion girls’ education in Morocco

  • Their visit to the north African country will focus on work to promote girls’ education, women’s empowerment and the inclusion of people with disabilities

ASNI, Morocco: Britain’s Prince Harry and his pregnant wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, visited a school high up in Morocco’s rugged Atlas Mountains on Sunday.

Harry and Meghan landed in the mountain town of Asni on Sunday morning on a whirlwind official visit to Morocco. They arrived by helicopter from the capital of Rabat and were welcomed by pupils from a school run by a Moroccan foundation that emphasizes education for all.

The school provides education for girls from rural communities whose parents would not typically be able to afford secondary education.

The royal couple, Harry in a light grey suit and Meghan in a red dress, were welcomed with a tray of dates, a traditional ritual of hospitality in Morocco, after they landed in Casablanca on Saturday evening.

The visit at the request of the British government is the second to the country in recent years by a member of the royal family, following a trip by Prince Charles in 2011. Queen Elizabeth visited Morocco in 1980.

As the couple arrived at the boarding house run by Education for All, an NGO that builds dormitories near schools to reduce school drop-out rates among girls aged 12 to 18, girls from the boarding house waved the flags of Morocco and Britain.

“Their Royal Highnesses will see work being done to promote girl’s education, empower young people and support children from disadvantaged backgrounds,” Kensington Palace said.

While in Asni, Harry and Meghan were also set to meet local high school students and teachers and afterwards attend a football game.

On Monday, the Duke and Duchess will attend an equestrian event in the capital Rabat involving horse therapy for children with special needs, followed by a cooking event and a meeting with young social entrepreneurs.

The couple is also expected to meet a member of the Moroccan royal family later in the day at a palace in Rabat. 

The brief trip is expected to be Meghan's last international trip before she gives birth to the couple's first child in April.


Tens of thousands converge on California ‘poppy apocalypse’

A woman poses for a photo among poppies in bloom on the hills of Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, California, on March 8, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 19 March 2019
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Tens of thousands converge on California ‘poppy apocalypse’

  • More than 6,000 people on a recent Saturday stopped at the visitor’s center at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

LAKE ELSINORE, California: Like Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz,” the Southern California city of Lake Elsinore is being overwhelmed by the power of the poppies.
About 150,000 people over the weekend flocked to see this year’s rain-fed flaming orange patches of poppies lighting up the hillsides near the city of about 60,000 residents, about a 90-minute drive from either San Diego or Los Angeles.
Interstate 15 was a parking lot. People fainted in the heat; a dog romping through the fields was bitten by a rattlesnake.
A vibrant field of poppies lures Dorothy into a trap in the “Wizard of Oz” when the wicked witch, acknowledging that no one can resist their beauty, poisons the wildflowers and she slips into a fatal slumber until the good witch reverses the spell.
Lake Elsinore had tried to prepare for the crush of people drawn by the super bloom, a rare occurrence that usually happens about once a decade because it requires a wet winter and warm temperatures that stay above freezing.
It offered a free shuttle service to the top viewing spots, but it wasn’t enough.
Sunday traffic got so bad that Lake Elsinore officials requested law enforcement assistance from neighboring jurisdictions. At one point, the city pulled down the curtain and closed access to poppy-blanketed Walker Canyon.
“It was insane, absolutely insane,” said Mayor Steve Manos, who described it as a “poppy apocalypse.”
By Monday the #poppyshutdown announced by the city on Twitter was over and the road to the canyon was re-opened.
And people were streaming in again.
Young and old visitors to the Lake Elsinore area seemed equally enchanted as they snapped selfies against the natural carpet of iridescent orange.
Some contacted friends and family on video calls so they could share the beauty in real time. Artists propped canvasses on the side of the trail to paint the super bloom, while drones buzzed overhead.
Patty Bishop, 48, of nearby Lake Forest, was on her second visit. The native Californian had never seen such an explosion of color from the state flower. She battled traffic Sunday but that didn’t deter her from going back Monday for another look. She got there at sunrise and stayed for hours.
“There’s been so many in just one area,” she said. “I think that’s probably the main reason why I’m out here personally is because it’s so beautiful.”
Stephen Kim and his girlfriend got to Lake Elsinore even before sunrise Sunday to beat the crowds but there were already hundreds of people.
The two wedding photographers hiked on the designated trails with an engaged couple to do a photo shoot with the flowers in the background, but they were upset to see so many people going off-trail and so much garbage. They picked up as many discarded water bottles as they could carry.
“You see this beautiful pristine photo of nature but then you look to the left and there’s plastic Starbucks cups and water bottles on the trail and selfie sticks and people having road rage because some people were walking slower,” said Kim, 24, of Carlsbad.
Andy Macuga, honorary mayor of the desert town of Borrego Springs, another wildflower hotspot, said he feels for Lake Elsinore.
In 2017, a rain-fed super bloom brought in more than a half-million visitors to the town of 3,500. Restaurants ran out of food. Gas stations ran out of fuel. Traffic backed up on a single road for 20 miles (32 kilometers).
The city is again experiencing a super bloom.
The crowds are back. Hotels are full. More than 6,000 people on a recent Saturday stopped at the visitor’s center at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California’s largest park with 1,000 square miles (2,590 sq. kilometers).
But it helps that the masses of blooms are appearing in several different areas this time, and some sections are fading, while others are lighting up with flowers, helping to disperse the crowds a bit.
Most importantly, Macuga said, the town’s businesses prepared this time as if a major storm was about to hit. His restaurant, Carlee’s, is averaging more than 550 meals a day, compared to 300 on a normal March day.
“We were completely caught off guard in 2017 because it was the first time that we had had a flower season like this with social media,” he said. “It helps now knowing what’s coming.”