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History : Abdelhalim Hafed’s astounding story about the 1971 attempted coup d’état

In Morocco, Egyptian singer Abdelhalim Hafed lived one of the scariest moments of his life. Invited by King Hassan II, he was held in Rabat’s main radio station taken over by rebels during the 1971 attempted coup d’état.

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Abdelhalim Hafed’s astounding story about the 1971 attempted cout d’état./Ph. DR

Although Morocco is not part of the Middle Eastern region that has given birth to iconic stars and artists, the North African Kingdom had an impassioned interest in the art produced in that part of the Arab world under the reign of King Hassan II. Singers, actors, songwriters and musicians from Egypt, Lebanon and other Arab countries, hence, stepped on the Moroccan soil to share their masterpieces with the sister country.

The dark-skinned nightingale Abdelhalim Hafed, the king of the Oud Farid al-Atrash, and the star of the Orient Oum Kelthoum were all in the kingdom to sing, perform and most of all meet the King who enjoyed and appreciated their talents.

History brings us back to the strong relation that brought King Hassan II and Abdelhalim Hafed, the iconic Egyptian singer known by his black and white movies and love songs. Indeed, the artist visited Morocco multiple times during his career and at every time he stressed on meeting the king. But one of his trips to the Kingdom was the most known of them all as it had a controversial episode to it.

July1971 and the birthday party

Several accounts recall the infamous visit of Halim to Morocco in July 1971. Invited by the Moroccan sovereign, the singer lived one of the scariest moments of his life in Rabat. In an interview conducted by the Arabic-Language newspaper Alayam, Abdelhalim Hafed’s personal doctor recalled the details to this visit in which was marked by an attempted coup d’état.

Alongside other Egyptian singers, actors and actresses, Halim was invited to perform at the King’s 42nd birthday. «The night before the birthday party, the palace hosted a reception during which Fayza Ahmed, Abdelhalim, and Mohamed Abdelouahab sang», said the doctor. «At the same time, the King was planning for the next day, he invited Farid al-Atrash, Mohamed Abdelouahab and Halim for lunch and told them that he was going to lead the band tomorrow at the party», he recalled.

At the time, Halim was assigned by the King the task of recording a national song. He couldn’t attend the lunch and went to Rabat’s main radio station to do so. And while, Halim was there, the palace was raided.

The king’s summer palace in Rabat was targeted by General Mohamed Medbouh and Colonel M’Hamed Ababou and Hassan II with his distinguished guests were placed under house arrest.

Taken over by the rebels

Meanwhile at the radio station, taken over by the rebels, Halim was held. «Abdelhalim was still at the radio station, and I was worried so I asked an official from the embassy to accompany me», said the doctor who was told when trying to enter the radio that the situation was under control and that Halim was safe and sound.

However, in the radio station the Egyptian singer was forced by rebels to read out a communiqué declaring the coup d’etat. In his interview, Halim’s doctor stated that he was told taler that : «when they entered the room where Halim and the Moroccan composer Abdeslam Amer were rehersing, Abdelhalim was forced to read the statement out but he refused.  

«He told them : 'I recommend you not to get Egypt into this’, they trusted him and hopefully did not kill him».

After surviving the coup, Halim stayed in Morocco for a long period unlike under Egyptian singers who decided to fly home right after the incident. According to the account of his doctor, the young artist insisted in staying in the Kingdom to see the king in person and check on him.

A different trip

Although Farid al-Atrash was also there during the 1971 infamous visit and was invited to attend the King’s birthday party, it was not his first time in Morocco. In January 1951, the singer and Oud player visited the country and met with King Mohammed V. In a rare radio interview, Farid al-Atrash expressed his happiness, visiting the country all while praising the sultan who received him in Marrakech.

«I am honored and touched by this meeting and thank the king for pinning the Alaouite medal on my chest», he stated.

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