Last year Manfred got a 600 dirham fee for speeding in the dessert. This year Flavio got 62 Euro fee for not stopping in time by the police checkpoint in Western Sahara. But it was clear that he’s Italian. He understand bribes and corruption in a way that I never could. Quickly he had turned the fee into 30 Euro.
The sun had set and the darkness embraced us. Far to the right we could glimpse the lights of Dakhla, to the left only an eternal black hole, stretching all the way passed the nomad villages in Algeria, Libya and Chad to Egypt.
I fell asleep in the car, dreaming I was in a bed. Every now and then I woke up, tilted the seat backwards, fell asleep again. As I opened my eyes once more the sun was up, we were bathing in a yellow shine in the dessert and a french woman was walking by with her dog. She waved good morning to me.
I stepped out of the car and realized we were standing in a long line. In the front was the border station.
They said it would open sometime around eight or nine. By half past ten the first cars started driving across the border, and by twelve we could get our passports stamped by the Moroccan staff. But with all the hassle by the border, many bribes paid to make it smoother, the time was past three when we could finally look at the Mauritanian stamp in our passports and get moving towards Nouakchott.
While driving through Mauritania the polices by the check points made us stop every single time. And every single time we had to give away copies of our passports, though I was the only one who had it. I wrote Flavios details on my papers, “ici monsieur, c’est pour l’homme.” we told the polices and we could drive by. Ibrahim in the car behind wasn’t as lucky. He had no copies, and at one stop the military made him take out everything in the car. He had a lot of things.
“You’re my luck!” Flavio said as we passed the controls, “thank you thank you, saved a lot of trouble.”
So remember, bring lot’s of copies of your passport. We had to give away at least ten just during the drive Nouadhibou – Nouakchott. Also, having a woman with you always makes it smoother, just because it’s a woman. Yes, IT’s a woman.
Tantan; the city where Luke Skywalker grew up. But also the city where Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara first becomes visible. The former sporadic checkpoints by the police are now in every entry and exit of the cities and they check all passports thoroughly. “Where are you going? What’s your profession? Where do you come from?”
It’s clear that it’s no cultural or social occupation. It’s about money, nature resources. The cost is human dignity and the suppression of an ethnic group.
We passes the city early morning. The last thing I remember from the night before is the sky over Tiznit. The sky bestrewed with stars seemed eternal, and sure the stars must have paired themselves with each other since I saw them last? They didn’t seem to be this many the night before.
When the crescent moon had sunk below the horizon it left a white glow like a glimmer in the sky. As an open diamond mine with a shimmer reminding of the existence of the universe.
Running across the street. Ten taxis, two cars. Me in the middle. The sound of the prayer from the minaret is overwhelmed by the traffic turmoil. Then, I stop. The clementines coloured as the midnight sun hang among thick green leaves on trees framing the streets. People walking by are happy, salesmen greet me in French when I pass them and I return the greeting in Arabic. They smile and I smile back.
Morocco’s capital is the most peaceful town in the country, although it is easy to be swept away by the daily lives which are as hectic as in any other capital. You can easily walk in the medina without the hassle, people are kind and no one will stalk you or ask you for marriage. It’s easy to get around: taxis are cheap and there’s an even cheaper tram. Five dirhams and it will take you across town. A ten minute taxiride is usually about fifteen or twenty dirham.
The vegetables at the markets are fresh and there are lots of good restaurants. As my french gets better life becomes easier and I could definitely live here for a while to learn it fluently. I love this life, but still. Traveling means meeting a lot of amazing people, who also travel. They aren’t staying and neither am I. You can always come back to the couch surfing hosts and meeting awesome people doesn’t mean you have to stay in touch with them forever. To meet a good friend and then let go is often much easier than staying in touch. Because how could you ever stay in touch with everyone you meet on the road? No matter how much you like them it’s better to use it as a comfort: there are millions of fantastic people out there. You don’t need to be with all of them. Just be one of them.
After our lunch Cristian dropped me off by the lighthouse in Rabat. I strolled along the beach for a while and watched the fishermen. The sky was cloudy and the air cold. I’m wearing thick stockings and trousers, a t-shirt, shirt, fleecejacket and another jacket plus a big scarf. Still I’m cold every day. Morocco is nice when it’s sunny, but this cold is awful and inside the houses it’s even colder than outside. Lots of tea and warm soup helps for a while, but in the end of the day I’ve still been cold most of the time.
On my way home I stopped by a man selling vegetables off his carriage. A bundle of beetroots, a bundle of white beetroots, a bunch of dried figs and some ginger: six dirham, or fifty euro cents. That’s enough food for lunch And dinner for a very good price. That’s why I love shopping at the markets and small stands such as this one. It’s a great way to practice French and Arabic, plus here in Rabat there is no need to bargain. You’ll get the good price anyway. And another positive thing about couch surfing: you have access to a kitchen.
Dinner today: beetroot soup with ginger.
This morning I overslept. I was supposed to wake up at quarter past five and go to the embassy, instead I woke up at quarter to eight and threw on the clothes before running to catch a taxi. In the car the driver and one of the other passengers said “she’s crazy to go to Mauritania now. You’re not staying there are you? It’s fine for transit, quickly through, don’t stop.” “Well I am stopping, I’ll be there for a month or so,” I said. “Crazy. Crazy.” the driver sighed.
By the embassy the line wasn’t as long as the other days, but still long. I met Cristian from Holland, a young guy driving his motorbike to Senegal. “You could have gone on the back, but there’s no space.” he said, but when the embassy closed he gave me a ride to the medina where we had a late breakfast/early lunch.
In the line I also met a man from Italy and another from Pakistan, the later one and myself will hitch-hike with the Italian to Mauritania tomorrow when we have our visas, inshallah. We’re meeting outside the embassy at four am.