Two days later, having discovered proof of the Baroness’ conversion to Islam among her papers and receiving permission, Radouan had her taken from the facility where she had lain frozen since her death; had her prepared for burial with herbs and spices, and carried into the forecourt of the ancient shrine of Sidi Bel Abbes.
For the next three days, he stood motionless at the head of her coffin as a seemingly endless parade of officials, friends, and well wishers came to bid her farewell.
Then the palace sent a detachment of the King’s guard to help Radouan supervise her transit from Marrakech, some twenty kilometers, to her Ksar, "Dar el Chems,” where the funeral would take place. Drawn slowly by a white Hummer, the gun carriage carrying her body made its way out of town through Bab Gh’mat, followed on foot by Radouan, surrounded by holy men, and the Baroness’ dear friends. A flautist sat on top of the Hummer piping mournful odes. The route d’ Ouarzazate was lined with mourners, wailing and throwing flowers. At her estate, on the steps of the mausoleum she had built, the Wali of Marrakech, a life long friend, eulogized the Baroness in a panegyric he had composed himself. Then Radouan repeated the prayer for the deceased: “Bismillah Ar-rahmani Ar-rahim.”
“In the name of God, the forgiving and compassionate,
Hey, obedient soul, go back to your God, surrendering peacefully,
And enter among my creatures into Paradise.
Every soul will taste death.
From God we come and to Him we return.”
In the grove of old olive trees that surrounded it, the afternoon breeze sussured through the carved stone lattice walls of the mausoleum. Below an azure blue dome, the bronze coffin was carefully positioned on an elevated dais facing east, to be encased later in white marble, the outline of the Baroness, her right arm gesturing toward Mecca carved in bas relief. Not very Islamic, this physical representation, Radouan had thought, but was intent on carrying out her wishes. According to her instructions, refreshments were then served while a famous Lebanese chanteuse, accompanied by a small orchestra, sang “Far Away From You,” a song made famous by that "fourth pyramid of Egypt," Umm Kalthoum.
Remaining alone in the mausoleum Radouan fasted and prayed for three days. Then gathering his thoughts together and with a new-found enthusiasm for life, he began making plans for his wedding to Hafida.
©Elwyn Chamberlain 2006