Border madness - 24th July 2009

At 4.30am yesterday we crawled out of bed, bleary eyed and sleep deprived to begin our day trip to Melilla. Not something we relish at the best of times nowadays, but made even worse by the fact we knew the weather forecast was for 35degrees, hence the early departure.

We drove in the early morning, starlit darkness most of the way as there are very few street lights on the stretch of road between Nador and Saidia. Somehow, we managed to avoid the dogs in the middle of the road, ‘floppies’ (random people walking from somewhere to wherever), on the side of the road, and all the vehicles with no lights. After an hour and a half’s intensive concentration, we arrived at the wonderful border town of Beni Enzar. This place makes me smile (mainly in disbelief) each time we have to visit.

On this occasion my smile faded as soon as I saw the queue of vehicles already lined up at the border control. It was only 6.15am and there were already about 200 cars queued up and waiting. Grim. We joined one of six lanes of cars, and began our wait. The whole area has seen a massive improvement recently, but it’s still not in my opinion the best way to exit or enter Morocco if you have a choice. Oujda and Nador are far simpler, and more user friendly at this stage. They have knocked down the old ‘shed’ that you had to stand at to get your forms and passports stamped previously, and replaced it with some new high tech booths. All well and good if people understood the concept of queues ? Why is it that only the British are so fantastic at forming an orderly queue. (Actually I do know the answer to that - due to the War and rationing right? ) Anyway, we purchased our ‘exit’ forms from one of the touts, duly filled them in and waited to be allowed to go through into ‘no man’s land’. Once through the initial gate, as we are not Moroccan, I had to get out of the car (leaving Mr V in the queue so we didn‘t loose our spot), dice with my life by dodging cars to get to the ‘new booths’, where I had to find the ‘right booth’ and wait for my turn to get stamped out of Morocco.

Organised chaos springs to mind. Yes, the whole area has had a layer of tarmac. Yes, they have put a 6 foot fence in place. Yes, they have replaced the 50 year old ‘shed’ with new, semi high tech booths, but it’s still not generally a very pleasant experience.

We spent a great day in Melilla, met some friends for a fabulous fish tapas lunch in a very local eatery in the centre of town. Got some necessary pork based items and Sangria from the supermarket, and then headed back to the border. Again.

Joy of joys. We pulled up to the longest queue of traffic we have ever seen on the Spanish side of the border. So, we sat and waited. Bought some fruit from the sellers. Watched the ladies strap contraband to their bodies and cover it all up with their djellaba’s, ready to cross into Morocco. Watched the Spanish Police sweat in the sunshine, and people push their cars as opposed to starting them up to save petrol.

After an hour we got to the front of the queue, were waved across into Morocco, but then had to pull the car over and go through the rigmarole of having a swine flu test. Even though we’d only left Morocco in the morning, we had to go through the full test, sit and wait while the ‘Doctor’ phoned through all the British results for that entire day to his check in point. Finally we got our sheets stamped, got back in the car, got back in the queue and drove another 100 metres before we had to stop again, pull over and go to get our passports stamped for ‘entry’ to Morocco. Another queue ! Then again, another queue to obtain our paperwork for the car. Unfortunately, the power had gone off in this particular high tech booth. Rendering the guard even more useless than normal !? I’m not sure how much training they’ve actually had on their new computers, but my guess after yesterday, is not much !? We stood around with an ever increasing mass of people until finally the power miraculously came back on ?! The fact that there was a free booth right next door, powered up and ready to go, obviously never entered anyone‘s minds - except ours ! It also never ceases to amaze me here, how people will not generally complain, I guess that is a throw back to the Koran possibly, where everything is God’s Will?

Taking a side trip around the ever improving waterfront of Nador, we noticed to our dismay / delight, they are building a MacDonalds. Now we know that the world is coming to this region !

Anyway, stopped off to get some new pots and compost from the nursery on the way home, avoided the Grand Taxi’s and tractors and made it home safe and sound in one piece, albeit hot & sticky.

I look forward to meeting you to swap stories.

Shani

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