Dutch King surprises Hague neighborhood to join Ramadan meal

King Willem-Alexander joined an Iftar meal at the Mandelaplein community center in The Hague, 16 May 2019
King Willem-Alexander joined an Iftar meal at the Mandelaplein community center in The Hague, 16 May 2019Photo: RVD

King Willem-Alexander joined an Iftar in the multicultural Transvaal district in The Hague on Thursday night - to the great surprise of the other attendees. Iftar is the evening meal with which Muslims break their daily fast at sunset during Ramadan.

The community center on Mandelaplein had enough food to also feed the King, even though the assembled local residents had no idea that he would be joining them, AD reports. The King's visit was a well kept secret, because Willem-Alexander did not want the residents to feel weird about his presence at their self-organized party. And that seems to have worked. The initial excited surprise soon changed into relaxed togetherness, according to the newspaper.

Residents of all faiths and backgrounds were invited to the Iftar. Being connected to each other and your environment is an important part of Ramadan, and is heavily invested in at the community center throughout the year. The King joined four different tables, chatting with the residents and community center workers about their neighborhood, the meaning of the community center and the activities there.

Youth worker Nadir Abdel Moumen was getting ready to break the fast when suddenly he was sitting next to the King. "Yes, it was initially a matter of searching for conversation topics", he said to AD. "Should it be chic? Or politics? It ended with the King telling about the areas in Morocco he has visited." Willem-Alexander also told him that this was his first Iftar. "So we helped with his hazing."

Cansu Alkurt took a while to recover from suddenly sitting next to the King, she said to the newspaper. "I never thought I would meet the king and now he comes to me. Really bizarre", the pedagogical employee of the local pre-school said. She spoke to the King about the importance of language for children and their parents. "The King gives the impression that it does not matter that we are migrants. It makes you feel important that he comes here to our community center."