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King Abdullah Poses As Taxi Driver

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) - Disguised in worn-out clothes and roaming the streets of his capital unescorted, King Abdullah II posed as a taxi driver to hear the complaints of his countrymen. (Related article)

It was the second time in a week that the 37-year-old Jordanian monarch has gone undercover in a bid to fight bureaucracy in a country where even children's admission to high school depends on family connections.

Abdullah managed to successfully complete his inquiries on Monday without revealing his identity, palace officials told The Associated Press. They spoke on customary condition of anonymity.

The officials said the king spent over two hours in the afternoon chatting with passengers while driving a yellow cab to both posh suburbs and slums of Amman.

At one point, Abdullah stopped to ask traffic police for directions and then mingled with them, discussing their concerns about traffic violations in a country known for its reckless drivers, the officials said.

``He also heard passengers' concerns on all sorts of matters, which ranged from political to bread-and-butter,'' said one of the officials.

Abdullah visited a state-run trade zone Wednesday disguised in a white beard and a traditional Arab robe, posing as a television reporter to hear public complaints.

He was forced to reveal his identity when the zone's management prevented him from continuing his tour, saying he had no permit.

Abdullah's late father, King Hussein, played similar tricks during his 46-year reign.

The most recent was eight years ago, when he sped off in a motorcycle in bustling downtown Amman, enraging traffic police who were inspecting new radar gear.

When the king was finally stopped after a 90-minute chase, he took off his helmet to greet baffled policemen.


Changing mindsets
Opening closed societies to democracy
By Fereydoun Hoveyda


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