Diaspo #178 : Kamal El Hajji, from tour guide in Marrakech to UK’s first Muslim Serjeant at Arms

Kamal El Hajji is not afraid of making big life decisions : from tour guide in Marrakech to security official at the UK Ministry of Justice. This Essaouira-native, awarded by the Queen of England, was the UK’s first Moroccan to hold the role of Serjeant at Arms.

Moroccan Kamal El Hajji as a Serjeant at Arms. / DR
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In December 2015, a panel of British MPs chose Kamal El Hajji to become the new Serjeant at Arms of the House of Commons. The announcement was a milestone, the fruit of a long journey that had started in Morocco two decades before.

Born in Essaouira, Mohamed Amal El Hajji, a.k.a Kamal El Hajji, moved with his parents to Marrakech. After high school, and like many other young people from Marrakech, he opted for the tourism industry.

In 1984, he moved to Tangier to study at the Institut supérieur international du tourisme, a northern tourism school. Three years later, he returned the Red City to start his career as a tour guide. «I worked for some time in Marrakech, and then I decided to apply for a job at Morocco’s national carrier Royal Air Maroc», El Hajji told Yabiladi.

The tourism graduate worked as a cabin crew attendant until the beginning of the 1990s. By then, he decided to go through a second career shift. In 1992, El Hajji moved to the United Kingdom, opening the door to different opportunities in his career, away from tourism and transport.

«When I first came to England, I did not let myself go», he proudly said. Indeed, after working as revenue protection inspector at Transport for London, El Hajji decided to go back to school.

«I went to the University of London and studied security management», he recalled. The diploma helped him secure a job at the Ministry of Justice. «I started as a security manager and was mostly responsible for the security of senior officials coming from abroad, given the fact that I speak three languages», he told Yabiladi.

Honored by the Queen

El Hajji worked for ten years at the Ministry, during which he gained the trust and respect of British officials. In 2010, he was appointed head of Front of House and VIP Relations at the Ministry of Justice.

His work and dedication did not go unnoticed in Buckingham Palace. Indeed, in 2014, he was told he would be awarded by the Queen of England. El Hajji received the British Empire Medal, an honor awarded for meritorious civil or military service worthy of recognition by the Crown.

«It was an award I have never dreamt of receiving», he told Yabiladi. «The day I was told that I would receive the medal was just unforgettable», he proudly declared.

With his family, El Hajji attended the award ceremony at the Queen’s annual garden party, in May 2015. «I was very proud to be there, not just as a British security official, but also as a Moroccan (…) and when I greeted Her Majesty the Queen, I did it as a British-Moroccan», said El Hajji, who was also awarded by then-Morocco’s ambassador to the UK Lalla Joumala Alaoui.

The UK's first Moroccan Serjeant at Arms

After this proud and exciting experience, El Hajji left the Ministry of Justice for a new role. In 2015, El Hajji became the first Muslim, Moroccan and Arab to assume the historic role of Serjeant At Arms, which dates back to 1415.

His mission consisted of keeping order within the Commons chamber, committee rooms and public areas. Wearing a traditional uniform and carrying a sword, El Hajji would also perform ceremonial duties, such as «carrying the mace during the Speaker’s procession, the Speaker walks into the chamber before the start of each session and during the State Opening of Parliament».

«I loved my job at the Parliament and I was proud to be a Moroccan at the House of Commons. There, I also met Moroccan MPs who came to visit the British parliament», he recalled.

While working, El Hajji’s ambitions did not stop there. He applied for a course in diplomatic theory and practice and received the diploma one year later.

In July 2019, the British-Moroccan retired from his role at the Parliament and decided to go through yet another career shift. Since January 2021, he is representing the UK as World Peace Ambassador at NGO World Peace Tracts. Through this new position, Kamal El Hajji hopes to be able to put his long experience and interpersonal skills to use to promote peace the world over.

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